CEO Update: Compassion must be coupled with coordination and evaluation

24 March 2017

Yesterday I attended Mental Health Australia’s Parliament Advocacy Day. Alongside Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) Members and friends, I used this platform to add to the growing momentum for our Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention. It is essential that suicide prevention remains a key priority on the mental health agenda and that development and implementation of this national plan happens as a matter of urgency.

We again heard cross party commitment with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition both stating their support for the mental health and wellbeing of Australians. I was particularly heartened by the mention of the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) plans to report directly into Prime Minister and Cabinet, something Suicide Prevention Australia has been long advocating for in the form of a National Office for Suicide Prevention.

I was also pleased to see Minister Hunt’s ongoing commitment to mental health reform with announcement of a Primary Health Network Advisory Panel to ensure commissioning and implementation consistency and knowledge sharing – something I know PHNs and SPA Members have been keen to see progress. He also reinforced suicide prevention and mental health research as two of four key pillars he will champion.
We cannot underestimate the importance of good governance and evaluation infrastructure when it comes to putting in a plan to stop the heartbreaking increase in suicides in Australia. We heard yesterday via research released by Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) Member Lifeline that more than 80% of Australians support the development of a National Suicide Prevention Plan. Suicide Prevention Australia commends our colleagues from Lifeline for sharing this call from everyday Australians. To address suicide as a serious public health issue we must invest in a national plan that stays true to regional delivery and person-centred care.
It must be coupled with national leadership and a focus on quality through evaluation and accountability. This national plan must be mandated by a National Suicide Prevention Act and success measured by a National Office for Suicide Prevention.
We are seeing unprecedented political support for suicide prevention in recent months, from the statements made this week to public and private investment in innovative suicide prevention trials, regional suicide prevention through Primary Health Networks and consultation on the Draft Fifth National Mental Health Plan. 
Last month, the Suicide Prevention Australia Board stood with MPs Julien Leeser and Dr Mike Kelly to launch the first Parliamentary Friends for Suicide Prevention group. This is a group that, regardless of political orientation or agenda, have come together to unite as one to think through what they can contribute to preventing suicide, a public health issue that is very personal to each and every one of them.
This compassion must now be coupled with coordination and evaluation. Suicide Prevention Australia wants to ensure community sector voices from across the country are heard when it comes to implementation of these reforms. The peak body has brought together Lifeline and others in the field, including those personally impacted by suicide, to identify outcomes, milestones and investment drivers needed for a National Suicide Prevention Plan. Suicide Prevention Australia believes this work should inform the Government commitment in the Fifth National Mental Health Plan Consultation Draft 2016, of “developing a whole-of-government national suicide prevention plan.”

This week's Parliamentary Advocacy Day was another step in the right direction and I would hope to see this commitment to coordinated suicide prevention also reflected in today’s COAG meeting. I know that many of our Members have written to their representatives to reinforce just how important National and State leadership is to them for our collective efforts to make an impact. Suicide Prevention Australia stands with them in calling for this support. 

Best wishes,
Chief Executive