Tuesday, 10 September 2019
World Suicide Prevention Day
I rise to make some reflections on World Suicide Prevention Day. Today communities around the world will collectively shine a light on suicide prevention both politically and at the community level. Each and every day an average of eight Australians commit suicide and 180 more will attempt to take their own lives. In 2017, over 3,000 Australians died as a result of suicide. It is days such as World Suicide Prevention Day that allow all of us to spend some time reflecting on those we have lost to suicide and on how we might address this issue and to consider our shared responsibility in preventing suicide.
The loss of loved ones, family members and friends is heartbreaking, and the tragedy of suicide extends not just to those who lose their own lives but also to those who are left behind. I know this far too well, as during the winter recess I was one of those who experienced the grief of losing a friend to suicide. Survivors can struggle for years to understand what happened, and, indeed, work by the ABS indicates that a family history of suicide is a risk factor that can contribute to other members of the family also taking their own lives.
As a community we are often particularly affected by youth suicide, perhaps because we struggle to understand why, in a successful and prosperous nation like ours, a young person just beginning their journey in life would choose to bring it to an end. We also know there are real issues to be tackled in specific communities—for example, among our veterans or young Indigenous Australians. The suicide rate among young LGBTI Australians is five times the national average and 11 times higher than the national average for the trans community. This is a national tragedy in itself, which warrants more action and specific community based programs to support those struggling with sexuality or their gender identity.
It is clear that there are few issues that are as important as the work that is currently being undertaken by state and federal governments to prevent suicide. I am immensely proud to be part of a government that has made mental health and suicide prevention a key priority, particularly through the creation of the towards-zero-suicides target and the whole-of-government approach being driven by Australia's first National Suicide Prevention Adviser, Christine Morgan. The Prime Minister has made this a personal mission, and I know he has bipartisan support. The government has committed to spending over $4.9 billion on mental health this year alone. Included in this funding is $111 million for the establishment of 30 more headspace centres, taking the total number of centres in Australia to 145. I've seen headspace's work in my own electorate and I know just how important their services are to young people across the country.
The causes of suicide are often complex, and the road to reducing its prevalence will not be easy, but we are determined to make a real difference in this important area. It is right that we mark World Suicide Prevention Day, but success will only come when our focus extends to every day of the year.