Suicide Prevention Australia welcomes investment in some of the key risk areas that drive distress in our communities including housing, domestic and family violence, welfare and disasters. Investment in building Australia’s resilience is a key prevention measure particularly at a time when communities are being hit with floods.
Specific investments are allocated towards a number of priority populations including veterans, First Nations, LGBTIQA+ communities, children and young people, older people, carers, and people living in rural and regional areas. However, there is a missed opportunity for funding to support other priority populations including men and people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
- $97.9 million over 4 years from 2022–23 (and $28.7 million per year ongoing) to increase the Special Rate of Disability Compensation Payment, Temporary Special Rate Payment, and the Special Rate Disability Pension by $1,000 per year for veterans.
- $87.0 million over two years from 2022–23 to improve the administration of the claims processing system and improve veterans’ services.
- $630.4 million over 4 years from 2022–23 to strengthen Australia’s resilience to disasters.
- $314.8 million over 5 years from 2022-23 for First Nations health infrastructure and training.
- $47.7 million over 4 years from 2022–23 to reinstate Medicare Benefits Schedule item 288. This will provide for a 50 per cent loading for bulk-billed telehealth psychiatry consultations in telehealth eligible areas across regional and rural Australia.
- $10 billion in the newly created Housing Australia Future Fund, to generate returns to fund the delivery of 30,000 social and affordable homes over 5 years.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray said, “While there is little to no ‘new money’ for suicide prevention, we welcome the dialogue around a Wellbeing Budget.
“This is a step in the right direction towards a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention. It can help to measure those broader risk factors so that there is more of a focus on preventative measures rather than reactive measures.
“A Wellbeing Budget will encourage all ministers, whether they work in housing, education or health, to consider how their policies may or may not impact levels of distress.
“An effective Wellbeing Budget must have a clear focus on suicide prevention by including metrics on suicide, distress, attempts and deaths but equally those broader risk and protective factors, including alcohol and other drugs, housing, family and domestic violence, poverty, loneliness and more.
“Housing insecurity is a risk factor for suicide and the success of Labor’s investment in housing will be dependent on access to affordable options.
“It’s a critical time for suicide prevention. We’re experiencing compounding environmental disasters, emerging from a global pandemic, the rising cost of living and mortgages are set to increase financial, housing and relationship stress, and we’re facing geo-political tensions. There are high levels of distress in our community which is why we cannot become complacent.
“We’re seeing worrying indications from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System.
“In NSW and Victoria, the total number of people who died by suicide in July 2022 was higher than at the same time in the last three years. Only NSW and Victoria publicly report recent deaths by suicide and when these figures are combined the two states represent 57% of the national population.
“Our annual State of the Nation report released last month revealed 70% of Australians have experienced elevated distress beyond their normal levels compared with this time last year.
“Research shows it’s two-to-three years after a natural or economic disaster that suicide rates can increase. We saw this with increases to suicide rates during the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, and we’ve seen it after bushfires, Cyclone Yasi and the Christchurch earthquake.
“Labor’s focus on building resilience is positive but if we don’t implement smart policy reform in conjunction, the risks of suicide rates increasing is real. The impact of suicide has a ripple effect across family, friends, workplaces and communities.
“Real and sustained change is dependent on authorising legislation, like a National Suicide Prevention Act, that cements suicide prevention as a priority and serves as a lasting system enabler.
“That is why we will continue advocating on behalf of our members, for a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention.
“Every government department, whether it’s housing, education, social security or health, needs to be looking at their policies and priorities through a suicide prevention lens. This is a critical step in protecting our community at a time when it’s needed most.
“Ongoing suicide prevention reforms including the National Agreement and National Suicide Prevention Office are significant and welcome commitments,” 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.
Help to report about suicide safely is available online: Go to https://mindframe.org.au/