House debates

Thursday, 13 September 2018


R U OK? Day

4:55 pm

Photo of Jason FalinskiJason Falinski (Mackellar, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand today to speak on an issue that can be hard to speak about: mental health. Today is R U OK? Day, a day aimed at starting conversations with those around you. It is estimated that more than four million Australian adults experience mental health issues each year. Tragically, in 2017 2,866 Australians took their own lives. That's more than eight people every single day and one person every three hours. Seventy-five per cent of these were male, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for men. For young people, it is even worse. Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth, accounting for more deaths than car accidents.

The effects of this loss are felt by all of us—friends, family and our community. But these figures are only the tip of the iceberg. For every death by suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives. That's around 65,300 suicide attempts each and every year. For their family and loved ones, each attempt marks the start of a struggle to find the support and care they need to recover. With these statistics in mind, it is clear that mental health has affected all of us in one way or another. There is no shame in that. This is a day to remind us that it is okay to not be okay. Today it is vital that we ask our colleagues, loved ones, teammates and neighbours: are you okay? It may feel uncomfortable at times, but those three words have the potential to change and in some cases save a life. R U OK? encourages us to partake in four easy steps: first, ask, 'Are you okay?'; second, listen; third, encourage action; and fourth, check in.

The coalition government have made mental health a priority, and it is a key pillar of our national long-term health plan. This year the coalition is investing a record $4.3 billion in mental health. Over four years, the coalition government will provide $800 million, with every state and territory government dollar matching this commitment. It will be allocated to each jurisdiction on a population basis. This commitment was and still is about saving lives and protecting lives. It is of the utmost importance that we focus not only today but every day on mental health and making sure that those around us are, in fact, okay.

I am a proud #letstalk ambassador. Man Anchor is a local organisation in my electorate that is dedicated to the enlightenment of the modern man on a range of issues and subjects, advocating for men's mental health. Tragically, this issue hit close to home recently when the Mackellar community lost a beloved 18-year-old to suicide—a life cut far too short. In the weeks following his death, family and friends have led the charge for community action. Friends organised a fundraising event for R U OK?. One of the young girls who helped organise the event said: 'People have no hope at the moment, but I want this event to be where that all changes. The madness needs to stop.'

It is encouraging seeing so many young people who have felt the ramifications of suicide stand up and help to make a difference on this issue. Recently, I was delighted to present a Commonwealth grant to the Avalon Youth Hub. This is a centre that provides critical mental health services to the young people in my electorate, offering youth counselling, parental support and school talks—all things aimed at improving mental health support for young people. Services such as the Avalon Youth Hub, Man Anchor and R U OK? are all helping to ensure that the future for mental health is a much brighter one. This is an issue that we simply cannot be silent on. To lose even one life to suicide is too many. Ask someone today, 'Are you okay?' and remember that one conversation can change a life.

Debate interrupted.

House adjourned at 17 :00