The Federal Government’s $12.8 million budget commitment to set up a National Suicide Prevention Office, signals a major step towards significant system change that could lead to a meaningful reduction in lives lost to suicide.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray said, “We’ve been sitting at a suicide prevention crossroads. We have been calling for a National Suicide Prevention Office, supported by a suicide prevention act for some time and now major reform is possible.
“An office will help address funding allocations, reduce duplication, support even spread of services, enable continuity of care and most importantly increase accountability across all areas of government, not just health.
“We note with caution that some of the reforms announced are contingent on a national agreement with states and territories which is scheduled for November.
“Given suicide isn’t just a mental health issue, the Government needs to coordinate funding and build suicide prevention policy into their decisions about issues as diverse as housing, employment, and helping people to build healthy social connections.
“A whole of government approach to suicide prevention means that every part of Government plays a role in reducing distress and suicide in our communities.
“Importantly, the National Suicide Prevention Adviser Christine Morgan has recommended that a whole of government approach requires authorisation and oversight from the Prime Minister with explicit support from the Ministerial level.
“The mechanics of setting up the right structure for suicide prevention are vitally important, but not as important as recognising that every suicide is the loss of a human life.
“Suicide prevention has to be about the people who have died by suicide, people who struggle with suicidality each and every day, and those who care for them.
“It’s heartbreaking to know that over 3,000 people die by suicide each year and we can never underestimate the impact that every life lost to suicide has on family, friends, workplaces and the broader community.
“The additional investment in services to support people who have survived a suicide attempt will save lives.
“About 65,000 people attempt suicide each year. A person surviving a suicide attempt is at heightened risk of a future attempt, especially in the first six months.
“Given our ambition is that every Australian who has survived a suicide attempt or presented to an emergency department in suicidal crisis has access to aftercare support, the Government’s decision to set aside $158.6 million is welcome.
“Providing people with proactive support and follow up can reduce additional suicide attempts by up to 20%.
“We have been advocating for a male suicide prevention strategy and we are disappointed that the budget has ignored this priority population. Sadly, males are around three times more likely to die by suicide than females.
“The Federal Budget has presented many opportunities for major reform in suicide prevention,” said Ms Murray.
The key outcomes from the budget include:
- Establishing the National Suicide Prevention Office to oversee the national approach to suicide prevention ($12.8 million over four years)
- $158.6 million over four years for aftercare services, contingent on an agreement with the States and Territories. Importantly this includes not only those presenting to hospitals, but also funds for aftercare services in the community
- $487.2 million for a network of adult mental health centres with centralised intake (Head to Health)
- $278.6 million over four years from 2021-22 to expand and enhance headspace youth mental health services, in conjunction with the states and territories
- Initiatives for vulnerable groups including:
- $79.0 million to implement initiatives under the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy
- $16.9 million to provide mental health services and support to Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse communities
- $11.1 million (over two years) to improve outcomes for people with complex mental health needs
“The Federal Government’s investment in suicide prevention to date has been welcome and necessary but we have no time to lose in making further, smart and timely decisions that will make a meaningful difference to the lives of people across our communities.
“We can never underestimate the impact that every life lost to suicide has on family, friends, workplaces and the broader community,” said Ms Murray.
To get help 24/7, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, phone 000 for emergency services.
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