Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Questions without Notice
Mental Health: Suicide Prevention
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, Senator Cash. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Can the minister please update the Senate about how the government is investing in improving the mental health of all Australians and preventing suicide?
I thank Senator Van for the question on what I think we all agree is an incredibly serious issue. As Senator Van said, today is World Suicide Prevention Day. This is one of those issues where, in this place, we are all united in our determination to see the scourge of suicide on our community ended.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44. Regrettably, in 2017, more than 3,100 Australians died by suicide. Suicide Prevention Australia released research in June this year, and it shows that suicide can have a large ripple effect throughout the community, with 56 per cent of Australians personally knowing someone who has died by suicide, including 61 per cent in rural and regional communities. These figures are of deep concern, and the government is committed to reversing this trend. Every life is important, and we must do what we can to prevent suicide.
The government has adopted a 'towards zero' target. We believe that a target of zero suicides is the only acceptable target.
We have appointed Christine Morgan as Australia's first National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister. She will work with the government on our towards-zero target and culture. Over the next 15 months, Christine, supported by a national suicide prevention task force, will be working to better coordinate efforts in health, finance, social services, employment and education, and deliver a whole-of-government response on suicide and its impacts. This is a serious issue, and the Morrison government, led by our Prime Minister, is committed to doing everything we can to reduce suicide.
Thank you again for the question, Senator Van. In the recent budget, we announced a $503 million youth and Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention package. We're investing $375 million to expand the headspace network. Twenty of the 30 new headspace sites will be in rural and regional Australia, ensuring that those in need have better access to services. We've committed $34 million to strengthening Indigenous youth suicide prevention, including support to ensure our healthcare system delivers culturally appropriate care and services, recognising the value of community, cultural artistic traditions and protective social factors. We're also investing $15 million in the establishment of a real-time suicide and self-harm monitoring system, to enable governments and communities to respond rapidly in the areas of high incidence.
Thank you—and, yes, I can. An example of one program benefiting from the government's record investment is batyr. Batyr was actually launched in 2011 after the founder of the organisation, Sebastian Robertson, experienced the frustration and isolation of living silently with mental ill-health whilst at university. Sebastian recognised the need to have open, honest conversations about mental health with young people, and founded the organisation, naming it after Batyr, the talking elephant from Kazakhstan. Batyr is all about confronting the elephant in the room, and that is suicide. Batyr will receive a $2.8 million boost from the Morrison government to expand its interactive school based programs through a new digital storytelling platform. This is a serious issue, and the government will work towards a zero—