It has been ten years since Lifeline Australia Chairman John Brogden attempted to take his life. Today, as I read his very personal recollections, I found myself vigorously nodding my head in agreement at the need for planned national action to reduce the number of lives lost.
SPA stands firmly with John, and members of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention, including Lifeline Australia, in calling for a national suicide prevention strategy. As he said today, “the commonwealth, state and territory governments must agree, implement and fund a national strategy as a matter of urgency”.
In the World Health Organisation’s first ever World Suicide Report last year, Australia was recognised for being one of the first countries in the world to put in place a strategy to prevent suicide with the instigation of a youth-focused suicide prevention strategy in 1995.
That was 20 years ago!
In Australia, we see excellence in suicide prevention but mostly in isolation. In reality, the strategic approach to suicide prevention in Australia is piecemeal, uncoordinated and overly biased on activities falling under the remit of the Department of Health, especially mental health.
This must change if we are to significantly reduce the tragedy of suicide. Reducing suicidal behaviour should be seen as a key public health outcome across a wide range of areas including education, drug and alcohol, homelessness, domestic violence, family and relationships, justice, employment, veterans and immigration.
Following the release of the National Mental Health Commission Review Report some months back the Minister for Health named suicide prevention as one of four priority areas for action. The report indicated the importance of a co-ordinated, binding national approach that is long term. Currently there are isolated strategic plans to prevent suicide at the State, regional or local level and no mechanism for the alignment and coordination of these strategies nationally. It also echoed a commitment to the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention’s goal to halve suicides in this country in ten years. SPA welcomes these sentiments being translated into firm, measurable actions in implementation plans to be released this year.
In his OpEd, John highlighted the 23,500 Australians who died from suicide in the ten years since his attempt saying “the cost of inaction is far too great for our community to bear.”
We need to take action. We need a national suicide prevention strategy to guide collective investment in activities that will make the greatest possible impact on suicide in Australia.
P.S. Don’t miss your chance to hear John Brogden speak about his experiences in person. Buy your ticket today for Concert For Life being held on World Suicide Prevention (10 September) at Sydney Town Hall (in support of SPA and Lifeline Australia).