House debates

Monday, 14 October 2019

Private Members' Business

World Suicide Prevention Day

11:16 am

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that Tuesday, 10 September 2019 was World Suicide Prevention Day;

(2) confirms the Government's commitment to work with local communities to reduce the number of deaths by suicide in Australia;

(3) further notes the record level of funding of $736 million provided in the 2019-20 budget for mental health including $503.1 million for the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan to support coordination of Government activities and services including:

(a) the largest single expansion of the national Headspace network through the establishment of 36 new sites; and

  (b) provision of support to farmers and communities that have been affected by drought to deal with the anxiety, stress and uncertainty of drought conditions; and

(4) welcomes the establishment of the Office of the National Suicide Prevention Adviser in 2019 to support a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention, to ensure coordination of delivery of suicide prevention activities that reach Australians in the right way at the right time.

I have spoken in this place about the significance of holistic mental health care, an area of specific interest to me due to my experience as a clinician, as a psychologist and also as a researcher in the mental health sphere. It is a tragedy that so many people lose their lives to suicide in this country. World Suicide Prevention Day, which recently took place on 10 September, shone a global spotlight on this issue and has renewed our sense of commitment as a government to take real and effective action. We, the Morrison government, are doing more than any other previous government to safeguard the mental health of Australians, with funding expected to reach $5.3 billion this year alone.

Mental illness is the leading cause of both disability and premature death in Australia, costing the Australian economy an estimated four per cent of our GDP or approximately $68 billion per year. It is not the economic cost that is of greatest concern but the cost to our communities and to our families. Investing in mental health and suicide prevention is not a choice; it is a must. The $736 million provided in the 2019-20 budget for mental health will fund the development of an accessible, equitable and integrated mental health system through various targeted strategies. Through an integrated approach, the government plans to expand the capacity to provide targeted assistance to priority populations, directing focused care towards those most vulnerable to poor mental health or suicide due to complex cultural, social and environmental factors.

The positive impact of the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan is already being felt across Australia. While suicide remains the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24, this is why $503.1 million has been dedicated to practical steps to expand resources and prevention strategies to young people of vulnerable mental health. This is apparent through the strengthening of the headspace network and by dedicating $11.8 million to a range of initiatives to help parents recognise when their children are struggling, to improve mental health skills training in schools, to enhance peer support networks and to boost counselling services for young people. Often times, young people feel most comfortable initially speaking to and seeking out help from their peers. Providing the resources to enable resilience through peer support is an important part of empowering young Australians in the mental health space. We are providing $2.9 million to batyr to boost the role of peers to encourage others to seek help, $400,000 for the Banksia Project to expand the innovative community program and $600,000 for a trial of peer workers in Beyond Blue's Way Back suicide aftercare service. Earlier this year, I joined the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Minister Hunt in my electorate of Reid at Burwood Girls High School, where we saw batyr conduct a workshop and watched students respond to their stories of recovery from peers their age. That was incredibly powerful.

It is important that we acknowledge that certain communities are at greater risk of serious mental illness or suicide. For this reason, the Morrison government is providing further funding to improve mental health support for our farmers and communities in rural and regional areas that have been impacted by drought: we recognise that drought conditions can cause anxiety, stress and uncertainty for those directly affected. This is also why $15 million is being set aside for Indigenous suicide prevention. We are empowering young Indigenous leaders to create a national plan for culturally appropriate care, services and programs.

Within all of these initiatives, the government is working to close the evidence policy gap in this area of mental health by drawing on innovative research and expert knowledge. I commend the establishment of the office of, which will guide and uphold a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention. The National Suicide Prevention Adviser, Ms Morgan, is working across federal departments and states and territories to ensure that all services are coordinated and reach Australians who need them. This is the first step in bringing a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention and to addressing the psychosocial factors involved.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

11:21 am

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion, and I thank the member for Reid for bringing the motion before the House today. It's very fitting that last Thursday was World Mental Health Day and that the theme was 'working together to prevent suicide'. There's not a single community that hasn't been impacted by suicide. Indeed, there are precious few Australians who don't have direct personal experience of someone close to them taking their own lives. One life lost to suicide is one too many. But the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers show that 3,046 intentional self-harm deaths occurred last year in 2018. Suicide is now the 14th highest cause of death in Australia. As shocking as these figures are, they don't come close to describing the enormity of the crisis facing our country. For every death by suicide, as many as 30 more people attempt to end their lives. There are too many people in profound pain.

We also need to recognise that there are some groups of people who are overrepresented in mental health statistics including suicide rates. Three-quarters of deaths by suicide are men and the rate of male suicide is growing. Men in regional and remote communities are particularly vulnerable, especially where there is a lack of service and support to help them through those challenges. But, even where the services are available, men are less likely to reach out for help. In fact, roughly one man engages with a mental health service when they need it for every three women who do.

Young people are another vulnerable group who are overrepresented in the suicide statistics. Tragically, it is the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. I welcome the government's commitment to establish new headspace centres. The waiting times that young people are facing to access headspace's services are way too long. The government must now deliver on its important commitment as a matter of urgency.

Our First Nations communities are another deeply vulnerable community disproportionately impacted by suicide. In fact, the death rate from suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is double the national rate. Almost half of Australia's child suicides have been First Nations children. This is an unspeakable tragedy that rests on all our shoulders. We have failed to protect these precious children. We need to work on finding solutions in partnerships with communities and increase our investment in Aboriginal-led mental health services.

More broadly, the government also needs to act on the recommendations of the National Mental Health Commission's 2019 report on mental health and suicide prevention. This includes the collection of high-quality data on high-risk community groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; undertaking a national mental health services gaps analysis; implementing a national mental health workforce strategy; and addressing the broader social and economic factors contributing to mental ill health and suicide.

I'd like to commend the government for creating a new role of National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister, which is ably filled by Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission. Ms Morgan is supported by Jaelea Skehan, herself an internationally respected expert in the field. Jaelea was formerly the director of Everymind, a mental health and suicide prevention organisation in my electorate of Newcastle. I have known Jaelea and her extraordinary work for many years now. She is a compassionate and fiercely committed champion for mental health and suicide prevention. I know she will be an asset, helping the government to work towards its very worthy goal of reducing suicide to zero.

I'd also like to recognise all the incredible community organisations who work on the front line every day providing support and assistance to people when they need it most. Of course, this includes mental health services and those directly focused on suicide reduction, but it's also the women's shelters, the financial counsellors, the community legal centres, the drug and alcohol services, the domestic violence support programs and so many more that are fulfilling the vital role of supporting people when problems seem too much to bear. But, sadly, while more and more people are struggling to keep their heads above water, our community sector has been stretched to breaking point. We need to recognise that, without a strong and properly funded community sector, we simply won't be able to turn this crisis around. I urge the government to invest properly in frontline services that will be absolutely critical to addressing the crisis.

11:26 am

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

I rise today to speak about an issue I wish we did not have to speak about. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44. This simply is not good enough. On 10 September, it was World Suicide Prevention Day, a day aimed at eradicating that awful statistic. We cannot stay silent on an issue such as this. Suicide accounts for more deaths among our youth than car accidents. We lose eight Australians every single day—one person every three hours—to this horrendous epidemic. Even one life lost is one life too many.

The coalition government has made mental health a priority, with a record level of funding in the 2019-20 budget: $503 million for the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, the largest suicide prevention strategy in Australia's history. This funding was, and always will be, about saving lives. The Morrison government is committed to working towards zero suicides. This government is committed to working with local communities to reduce the number of deaths by suicide.

In the Mackellar community, Man Anchor is a local organisation that is dedicated to the enlightenment of the modern man on a range of subjects through advocating for men's mental health. Through Man Anchor, I'm a proud #letstalk ambassador, encouraging men to talk about mental health struggles. Gotcha4Life is another excellent organisation in Mackellar that was established to reverse the tide of declining mental health and reduce suicide in men and boys. Gotcha4Life believes in healthy masculinity, giving men and boys the tools to start meaningful conversations by developing better social and emotional connections with their mates, families and community.

In 2019 alone, tragically, there have been seven youth suicides in my electorate of Mackellar—seven that I am aware of, seven young lives with the world at their feet, seven families that will never be the same again. We cannot allow this to happen any longer. Investing in suicide prevention is a must.

Throughout this year, suicide has hit very close to home on the northern beaches. Avalon Youth Hub is an organisation that walks the walk. It provides on the ground support for friends, peers and families that have lost a loved one to suicide. In the hours, days and months after these awful events, communities struggle. I'm proud to represent a community that fights for each other and that comes together in times of need. Thank you to the community groups of Mackellar, many of which I have not had time to mention today, that provide support for those who need it most.

The government is providing $375 million to fund an additional 30 headspaces nationwide. Headspace is doing an excellent job of providing youth-friendly services for our young Australians. I will continue to advocate for a headspace on the upper northern beaches, where it is much needed, to ensure that adolescents in Mackellar have accessible and relatable mental health services.

The government has committed $33.8 million over four years to enhance and increase the responsiveness of Lifeline's telephone crisis support line. I'm honoured to have John Brogden and his wife, Lucy Brogden, as constituents of mine. All the efforts that they have made to ensuring that this service is world leading has helped so many avoid the scourge of suicide. Lifeline is a service that has proved to work and to save lives.

We are committed to real solutions that will work to prevent suicide. A further $12 million for the National Suicide Prevention Research Fund, managed by Suicide Prevention Australia, will support targeted research. There has been $15 million invested in the creation of a real-time suicide and self-harm monitoring system, giving communities data needed to provide rapid assistance when and where it is needed.

11:31 am

Photo of Emma McBrideEmma McBride (Dobell, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to thank the member for Reid for raising the important issue of suicide prevention, and I acknowledge the member's experience as a clinician and researcher in mental health. As the member for Reid noted, last Thursday was World Mental Health Day. The theme of the day was 'Working together to prevent suicide'. Tragically, as others in this House have noted, in 2018, 3,046 Australians died by suicide; eight Australians die by suicide each day; men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women; and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to die by suicide than the overall population.

The government's goal of reducing suicide to zero, along with the appointment of Christine Morgan as National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister, is commendable. Labor also welcomed the government's election commitments to expand and improve headspace services and other child and youth mental health services across Australia. However, as Suicide Prevention Australia noted when releasing its recent report, Turning Points:Imagine a World Without Suicide:

Suicide prevention is complex and it needs to be addressed as a whole-of-government issue because it's more than a health issue… a fragmented and mental illness-specific approach alone doesn't work.

Suicide Prevention Australia is:

…focused on an integrated approach to suicide prevention encompassing mental health, social, economic and community factors.

In September, the National Mental Health Commission released its National Report 2019 on Australia's mental health and suicide prevention system, which included a number of recommendations to improve outcomes. Like Suicide Prevention Australia, the National Mental Health Commission recommends a whole-of-government approach to mental health and suicide prevention. This broad approach ensures factors which impact individuals' mental health and wellbeing, such as housing, employment, education and social justice, are addressed alongside the delivery of mental health care.

I particularly want to focus today on the importance of addressing the social and economic factors that contribute to poor mental health and to increased rates of suicide. As it's known, suicide is an individual act—but the rate of suicide is the property of a community. I note that this week is Anti-Poverty Week. As Sir Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, saysin The Health Gap: The Challenge of an Unequal Worldthat what goes on in the mind is profoundly influenced by 'the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age' and by 'the inequities in power, money and resources' that influence these conditions of daily life. If we want a well society with a diminishing suicide rate, we must address the social factors that contribute to suicidality. Affordable housing, access to quality education and access to affordable health care are all social determinants that contribute to an individual's sense of self-worth and overall wellbeing.

The pursuit of economic policies which further marginalise disadvantaged groups will undermine any attempts to reduce the rates of suicide, however well intentioned they may be. In The Health Gap, Sir Michael Marmot cites research by a group from Oxford University across a number of European countries which showed that rises in unemployment rates were correlated with rises in suicide rates, and, importantly, that the size of this effect was inversely related to the countries' level of spending on social protections, including unemployment benefits, active labour market programs, family support and health care.

I say again, as I said on World Mental Health Day: it's time for genuine bipartisan action on suicide prevention. In this spirit, I call on the government to look to the recommendations of the National Mental Health Commission 2019 report and: commit to the collection of high-quality data, particularly on the scope of disorders and high-risk community groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders; undertake a national mental health service gaps analysis and implement a national mental health workforce strategy; address the broader social and economic factors that contribute to mental ill-health and suicide; fix the NDIS so that the streamlined access for people with psychosocial disability is working, and keep delivering support for those who are ineligible for the NDIS; make sure all relevant government departments—health, education, justice, social services and housing—are responsible for the design and implementation of all future national suicide prevention strategies.

In closing: I spent 10 years of my life working in mental health inpatient units. I've seen the circumstances of people's lives—the crises and the tragedies that bring them in to mental health services. But what we must remember—and, in closing, I will again use the words of Sir Michael Marmot—is this: why treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick?

11:36 am

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to start by acknowledging the people here today and around the country who have a lived experience both of mental illness and of suicide, and I especially acknowledge the people who have been bereaved by suicide. This is something that is very close to my heart.

I would also like to start by saying that there shouldn't be a divide. We should all be working together on this important issue. There is not one side and another. We are, and need to be, the fire in the middle that brings everyone together so that we're working and going in the one direction. I think we owe it to the people of Australia to all be working together on suicide prevention.

This is something that, as a former Defence Force member and a veteran, has impacted on my life quite regularly. Only recently, the day after Anzac Day, I was notified via a phone call that a friend of mine, Brad Carr, had died by suicide. I was with the Prime Minister at the time, and we were walking up to do a press conference. I took a minute. I had the PM throw his support around me and say, 'You don't have to go on if you don't want to. You don't have to go to the press pack.' I thought the best way to honour my friends who have died is to go on, and it is to push into being uncomfortable, because I truly believe that we should all be working together, and I truly believe that, if we don't talk about suicide and if we don't talk about mental illness, we will only go backwards. I did the press conference. They didn't know. I then spoke with the Prime Minister further about it, and then with the mother of Brad Carr.

It's so distressing that our community in the north has these high suicide rates and that the Defence Force and the veteran community have high suicide rates. But I want to be very clear: it's not a veteran issue or a defence issue—it's a societal problem. That's the only way we should be and need to be looking at it. This isn't about a time where we just wear a pin or a badge, or say, 'Are you okay?' on one day, or talk about suicide on a specific day. It's about how we do it every day. How do we work together every day to ensure that everyone is okay? We only have one life, and it's extremely important.

There are so many services in Townsville, but I want to highlight just one today, and that is the Townsville Suicide Prevention Network. The TSPN website says:

The Townsville Suicide Prevention Network (TSPN) plays a key role in coordination, collaboration and resource exchange within the Townsville area to build our community’s capacity as a foundation for the development of effective suicide prevention initiatives.

TSPN is an unincorporated association auspiced by selectability.

TSPN was established in 2015 in response to continuing high rates of suicide in our city.

The broad-based membership of TSPN includes people with lived experience, government and non-government organisations, community groups, sporting clubs, students, academics, mental health professionals, small and large businesses, and any concerned individuals. TSPN have facilitated the development of a community action plan to prevent suicide in Townsville. The website continues:

TSPN adheres to the LIFE Framework (Living is for Everyone) – Australia’s national framework for suicide prevention which provides a national strategy for action based on the best available evidence to guide activities aimed at reducing the rate at which people take their own lives.

The LIFE Framework is based on the understanding that: • suicide prevention activities will do no harm • that there will be community ownership and responsibility for action to prevent suicide • that service delivery will be client-centred The work of the TSPN has been guided by the Queensland Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2015 – 2017 (currently in review) – a plan that aims to reduce suicide and its impact on Queenslanders, and is a step towards achieving a 50 per cent reduction in suicides in Queensland within a decade.

The Queensland Suicide Prevention Action Plan outlines priorities that include stronger community awareness, improved service system responses, focused support, and a stronger and more accessible evidence base to drive continuous improvements.

I want to highlight that suicide prevention is everyone's responsibility. I feel that sometimes we forget that. I also feel that we need to be working together. This is all of our responsibility. Every life matters.

11:42 am

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Reid for moving this important motion today. We'll hear about the shocking rates of suicide and mental illness in our society many times today. For me, and for so many other Australians, World Suicide Prevention Day is deeply personal, and I acknowledge the collective grief of our nation. My husband's brother, Pete, a young doctor with a wife and two little children, died by suicide one Saturday morning 17 years ago. He had the whole medical profession at his disposal, yet he could not be saved. Mental illness is complex. For every death by suicide it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives. That is approximately 65,000 suicide attempts each year across our nation.

I acknowledge the record spend by this government, but the reality remains that mental health receives around 5.25 per cent of the overall health budget, while representing 12 per cent of the total burden of disease. We need to do much more. And, mostly, we need to do much more in regional Australia. Rural Australians experience a higher suicide rate than those living in cities, despite their comparable prevalence of psychological distress. At any given time, rates of suicide increase with increasing rurality. The most recent AIHW mortality report shows that 15- to 24-year-old males in regional areas are 1.8 times more likely to end their life by suicide than their urban counterparts, and the incidence is up to six times higher in very remote areas. Structural factors including unemployment, isolation and barriers to mental health care all contribute to this outcome.

In my electorate of Indi, where the suicide rate is 40 per cent higher than the state average, towns like Benalla have more than double the state average number of registered mental health patients. Our services are stretched to breaking point. When I visited Corryong recently, Dominic Sandilands, the CEO of Corryong Health—previously known as Upper Murray Health and Community Services—told me that they have one mental health nurse and she is past retirement age. She continues to work because they cannot find a replacement.

In the few short months since I was elected, I've been inundated with stories like this about how the mental health system is failing my constituents. I heard recently from a man called Jeremy—I'll call him Jeremy, but that's not his real name. Jeremy's son was one such young person. On a Tuesday evening in July, Jeremy's son attempted to take his life. Jeremy and his wife found him and took him immediately to the local hospital. That hospital did not have the facilities to care for him, so he was sent to the larger hospital 90 minutes away. But it could not admit him for care, because he was outside the catchment zone. He was sent home. In desperation, Jeremy called the next-biggest regional health service north of his town and was told that they were not in his zone either; it stopped 20 kays short of their house. They were instructed to drive two hours to the health service west of them where, mistakenly, they were again told they were in the wrong zone. They drove another hour to the next town where the mistake was realised and, unbelievably, they turned their car around and returned to the last place, where, finally, he was admitted.

My office alerted the state government minister to this terrible merry-go-round and I am happy to say that those boundaries have now been relaxed and the respective health services have been alerted. I congratulate the Victorian minister for such speedy intervention, but there are countless other barriers that go unreported. The mental health care system is failing people in country Australia. I truly commend the government's focus on mental health and I also want to work with the government—work together, collaboratively, across this nation—but, when people in regional Australia are still without critical services, I want to say we need to do more.

11:45 am

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I wish to firstly thank the member for Reid for bringing this motion to the House. I'm sure that many of my colleagues who have contributed to this debate, and others in this place, know somebody who at some stage in their life has been affected by mental illness or have lived with somebody with mental illness—or, worse still, been affected by suicide.

Last week we marked mental health awareness week and it was a timely reminder to all of us of the important roles communities play in suicide prevention and, more broadly, in mental health. In my travels across my electorate I'm constantly reminded of the lifesaving work of individuals, organisations and support services in my community. Whether it is a mental health service provider, or headspace, or the work done in our schools, particularly with our chaplaincy services, many groups play a crucial role in suicide prevention and assisting with mental health. Importantly, our sporting clubs also provide a lot of support, and that support is sometimes unrecognised.

On World Suicide Prevention Day, we as communities come together across the world to unite, not only to create greater awareness of suicide and suicide prevention, but also to change the way it is understood and discussed in the community and to connect people to support services. Of great concern to me as a father of two young men is that one in four young Australians aged 16 to 24 experience mental illness in any given year. Sadly, I've seen that much closer to home than I would wish. One in four is a distressing and heartbreaking statistic and one I certainly hope we can change in this term of parliament.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of support organisations across my electorate of Forde. One of them is Canefields Clubhouse at Meadowbrook, which provides valuable membership based services to adults living with mental illness. Canefields Clubhouse follows the international clubhouse model, which is person-centred and focused on providing meaningful work and socialisation for individuals living with mental health issues. It was a humbling and rewarding experience to join the Prime Minister and visit Canefields to get a real idea of how they are not only changing lives but also saving lives each and every day.

Another terrific service in our local community is Brook RED in Beenleigh. The centre offers a number of recovery orientated group activities and one-on-one peer support. The peer support at Brook RED is based on a foundation of having a shared experience of working towards recovery with a mental health focus. This shared experience of recovering is what brings people together as a community and is crucial in the fight to save lives. I am pleased to say that the government is delivering $1.6 million to Canefields Clubhouse and $2.8 million to Brook RED to ensure these organisations can continue to provide essential mental health support services over the coming years.

Equally, headspace at Meadowbrook is helping young people to overcome their mental health challenges and it is building stronger and more resilient youth in my community. In 2018-19, headspace Meadowbrook provided services to over 1,400 young people and provided some 5,600 or more occasions of service. Last week I had the privilege of visiting to see the terrific work they're doing and to speak with some of their amazing staff and volunteers.

I'm also pleased to say that, as a result of the continued growth in the northern Gold Coast part of my electorate, we made a commitment during the election to fund a new headspace in Upper Coomera to the tune of $750,000 over three years from 2019-20 and $1 million over four years from 2020-21.

Lastly, I want to recognise one of my sporting clubs, as I mentioned in my earlier remarks. Eagleby Giants junior rugby league club hold the annual Ky Boss suicide awareness game in recognition of a young man who committed suicide five or so years ago. The important part of that day is the message that it's not weak to speak and share your concerns. (Time expired)

11:51 am

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I wish to thank the member for Reid, Dr Martin, for raising this very important issue. I want to commend all the other speakers who have spoken on this issue, including my friend and colleague the member for Dobell, who had long-term experience working in a mental health unit at her local hospital as a pharmacist. I have dealt with suicide on a professional basis since I started my paediatric career, and I indeed remember some of the kids that I looked after who ultimately suicided. I know that their suicides have had a huge effect on their families and on our wider community. On a personal level, I've also had involvement with a family member who suicided and I know how deeply and profoundly it's affected my family.

I do agree that this is an issue for bipartisanship. And I do agree that the government should be congratulated on its focus on mental health. However, I don't think that at the present time we have the right answer. For example, my view is that suicide, whilst it is a complex issue, is often due to a lack of connection. We can see that in the way that the incidents of suicide have slowly increased in the last few years. We can see that in the defence forces. The risk of suicide is not so much when people are a member of the defence forces; it's when they leave. Their feelings of isolation, I feel sure, have a significant impact on the risk of suicide for people who leave the defence forces. I think there is much to be done to try to address that.

I think we can see it also in the young people who suicide, particularly young males, and in the difficulties they face in this current society in education, in getting a job and even in things like getting stable housing. These difficulties all increase, I think, the risk of suicide. The answer is not necessarily putting a headspace in every suburb. It's rather in how we increase people's connection to society in general.

I think desperately of a boy who I looked after, Liam. I looked after him when he was born and during the subsequent difficulties that he faced. He surmounted some incredible difficulties and did very well. But it was when he left school and had difficulty getting a tertiary education and difficulty getting into the workforce that his troubles really reached a peak and he ultimately suicided. But, prior to his suicide, he'd had 17 admissions to our local hospital's mental health unit. In those 17 admissions, the people who cared for him did not care for him once he was discharged, and there was no adequate discharge plan in place when he left hospital. I think that's something that we're missing a lot. There is often a lack of connection between the mental health services provided in our hospitals and mental health units and the mental health services provided in the community. There is much to be done in terms of improving our communication networks for those that have mental illness. I think desperately of the things that perhaps I could've done to change that outcome.

I know that many people who are admitted to hospital with severe mental illness lose the ability to be followed up once they go back into the community. They often face enormous troubles getting into the education system, enormous difficulties getting stable housing and enormous difficulties getting mental health treatment that provides for them in an ongoing, meaningful way. I'm talking about things like help with continuing to take their medications, for example. It's very common for people with severe mental illness to be discharged on medication and then have difficulty following on with that after discharge.

There's much more to be done. Whilst I congratulate the government for its efforts, we need to do much more to improve communication between our services.

11:56 am

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.