Suicide Prevention Australia CEO on the Fifth National Mental Health Plan

20 December 2016

Mental Health Australia (MHA) has today issued a letter outlining concerns in relation to the draft Fifth National Mental Health Plan from a mental health and mental illness perspective. We thank MHA and its members for articulating feedback specific to their area of expertise.

Suicide Prevention Australia contributed feedback to the development of the Draft Fifth National Mental Health Plan, providing suggestions from Member feedback, the Australian Response to the World Health Organization global report on suicide and from meetings of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention to provide a submission to the working group on the plan, earlier this year.

As the peak body, we have encouraged our Members and networks to actively participate in the Fifth National Mental Health Plan consultation process to assist Government in developing the best possible Plan for implementation specific to our shared expertise in suicide prevention.

It is essential that suicide prevention remains core to reform of the health, mental health and other related services and portfolios. We must also keep the person at the centre of every change being discussed as part of this reform. We must listen to lived experience of mental health and suicidal behaviours, and make meaningful use of this experience in implementation plans.

You can read Suicide Prevention Australia’s submission here. In addition to the points enclosed in the submission we would like to reiterate our full support for a review of the LiFE Framework and development of a national suicide prevention plan supported by legislation and a National Office for coordination across Government.

We are committed to making our collective expertise available over the long term and working in partnership with the Government, Mental Health Australia and others to turn the devastating trend of suicide in this country.

It is the responsibility of us all to inspire dollar and emotional investment in this Fifth Plan. For the many and diverse stakeholders, key to delivering a long-term vision of life promotion, is having an inspirational, innovative plan to drive implementation.

Within our submission we have identified numerous practical suggestions for implementation. Key strategic points for consideration are noted below:

1. Suicide prevention is a national priority

Leadership in suicide prevention, with a commitment and resources from all Health Ministers and the administrations that they oversee is necessary to enable people to lead contributing lives. The inclusion of suicide prevention as a specific segment in the Plan should be matched by policy priority, deliberate action and monitoring of results. 

2. Suicidal behaviour reduction requires a public health response

The Fifth Plan needs to explicitly recognise that the detection and treatment of mental illness is only one facet of a holistic public health approach to suicide prevention. As shown in the framework recommended by the World Health Organization, a public health approach to suicide prevention should integrate crisis intervention and enhanced support for people at risk of suicide with broad community awareness, stigma reduction, and postvention and bereavement support for persons impacted by another’s suicide, for those who have attempted suicide, and for carers.

3. Accountability of health services

The Fifth Plan needs to nominate specific accountabilities of health administrations for their identification of and response to suicidal persons and their carers. This should encompass integrated cross-portfolio whole of community plans, which cover primary health care, hospitals and community mental health services; linkages across Primary Health Networks, state based health regions, private health services and the emerging digital mental health services, should also be identified. Measurement of results and transparency on the resources allocated and the findings from evaluations of services, programs and specific initiatives/trials towards a goal of reduced suicides and suicidal behaviour must occur.

Submissions for this stage of feedback have now closed. Subscribe to Suicide Prevention Australia’s E-newsletter by scrolling down and adding your email address to the Stay in Touch section to keep up to date with progress. 

Sue Murray

Chief Executive