Commonwealth response to 'The hidden toll: suicide in Australia'

Appendix C: Summary of response to recommendations of the report, The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia

Page last updated: 2010

Recommendation 1

2.28 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government commission a detailed independent economic assessment of the cost of suicide and attempted suicide in Australia, for example by the Productivity Commission.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation. The Government recognises the multitude of considerations which would need to be incorporated into the methodology when assessing the broad social impact of suicide in consideration of the economic and non-economic cost of suicide in Australia.

Recommendation 2

3.3 The Committee recommends that Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, in consultation with the National Committee for Standardised Reporting on Suicide, implement reforms to improve the accuracy of suicide statistics.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation, noting recent improvements in data collection, and is working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and state and territory governments to achieve this objective.

Recommendation 3

3.63 The Committee recommends that the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, in consultation with the National Committee for Standardised Reporting on Suicide, standardise coronial legislation and practices to improve the accurate reporting of suicide.
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Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation in-principle, noting that states and territories have varied legislation relating to the reporting of deaths, coronial processes and rulings and that the reporting of suicides is secondary to these judicial processes.

Recommendation 4

3.65 The Committee recommends all Australian governments implement a standardised national police form for the collection of information regarding a death reported to a coroner.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation, noting that most jurisdictions have introduced, or are in the process of introducing, police forms which contain the standardised items of the national police form.

Recommendation 5

3.66 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments enable timely distribution of suicide data from coroners' offices regarding suicides to allow early notification of emerging suicide clusters to public health authorities and community organisations.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports the dissemination of information within legislative constraints and as deemed fit by State and Territory Coroners and will work with States and Territories through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General or other appropriate forum.

Recommendation 6

3.67 The Committee recommends that State and Territory governments provide additional resources and training to staff in coronial offices to assist in the accurate and timely recording of mortality data.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation in principle, noting such investment decisions would be a matter for state and territory governments.
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Recommendation 7

3.69 The Committee recommends the National Committee for Standardisation of Reporting on Suicide liaise with peak insurance and financial associations, such as the Insurance Council of Australia, regarding exclusionary conditions in contracts which may deter the reporting of suicides.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation and will raise it with states and territories and through its participation in the National Committee for Standardisation of Reporting on Suicide.

Recommendation 8

4.78 The Committee recommends that Commonwealth, State and Territory governments ensure that staff in primary care, law enforcement and emergency services receive mandatory and customised suicide risk assessment, prevention and awareness training as part of their initial training and ongoing professional development.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports each recommendation in relation to workforce training, noting that:
  • responsibility in some circumstances rests with states and territories; and
  • work in some areas has already commenced

Recommendation 9, recommendation 10, recommendation 11 and recommendation 12

4.79 The Committee recommends that Commonwealth, State and Territory governments mandate that hospital emergency departments maintain at least one person with mental health training and capacity to conduct suicide risk assessments at all times.

4.80 The Committee recommends that Commonwealth, State and Territory governments review debriefing procedures and counselling support available to frontline workers regularly exposed to suicide and attempted suicide related incidents.Top of page

4.82 The Committee recommends that Commonwealth, State and Territory governments establish mandatory procedures to provide follow up support to persons who have been in psychiatric care, have been treated following an attempted suicide or who are assessed as being at risk of suicide.

4.84 The Committee recommends that Commonwealth, State and Territory governments provide funding for programs to identify and link agencies and services involved in the care of persons at risk of suicide. These programs should aim to implement agreements and protocols between police, hospitals, mental health services, telephone crisis support services and community organizations and to improve:
  • awareness by different personnel of suicide prevention roles and
  • expectations; and
  • handover procedures and continuity of care for persons at risk of suicide.

Summary response

The Australian Government broadly supports each recommendation in relation to the roles and responsibilities of the Australian workforce, noting:
  • that State and Territory governments have responsibility for the management of hospital emergency departments, including staffing levels and mix, and training; and
  • legislative limitations in relation to privacy.

Recommendation 13

4.86 The Committee recommends that Commonwealth, State and Territory governments provide additional funding for graded accommodation options for people at risk of suicide and people with severe mental illness.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation and is working with states and territories to implement a range of measures in this area.

Recommendation 14

4.88 The Committee recommends that the Australian governments oblige health care staff to offer prior consent agreements, such as advance health directives and standing medical powers of attorney, to patients at risk of suicide.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation and will raise it with states and territories through cross jurisdictional mechanisms and, as appropriate, with the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council.

Recommendation 15 and recommendation 16

4.91 The Committee recommends that Commonwealth, State and Territory governments provide accredited suicide prevention training to all 'front line' staff, including those in heath care, law enforcement, corrections, social security, employment services, family and child services, education and aged care.

4.94 The Committee recommends that the National Suicide Prevention Strategy promote and provide increased access for community organisations and the general community to appropriate suicide prevention training programs.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports each recommendation in relation to workforce training, noting that:
  • responsibility in some circumstances rests with states and territories; and
  • work in some areas has already commenced
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Recommendation 17, recommendation 18 and recommendation 19

5.92 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government fund a national suicide prevention and awareness campaign that provides information to all Australians about the risks and misconceptions of suicide, and advice on how to seek and provide help for those who may be dealing with these issues. This campaign should utilise a range of media, including television, radio, print and online, and other methods of dissemination in order to best reach the maximum possible audience. This campaign should also create links with efforts to alleviate other public health and social issues, such as mental health, homelessness, and alcohol and drug use.

5.93 The Committee recommends that the development of a national suicide prevention and awareness campaign should recognise the risks of normalising and glamorising suicide, and draw on wide consultation with stakeholders and a solid evidence base.

5.94 The Committee recommends that a national suicide prevention and awareness campaign, once developed, should operate for at least 5 years, and with adequate and sustained resources. This should include the provision of additional resources, support and suicide awareness training for health care professionals.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports these recommendations with qualification.

Recommendation 20

5.100 The Committee recommends that the Mindframe guidelines and current media practices for the reporting of suicide are reviewed. Research should be undertaken to determine the most appropriate ways to better inform the Australian public about suicide through the media, including mainstream news reporting, as well as through internet and social networking sites.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation in principle, noting that actions to address many aspects of the recommendation are completed.

Recommendation 21

5.101 The Committee recommends that national figures on suicide should be released to the Australian public, at a minimum, biannually, in an effort to raise community awareness about suicide, and should be provided together with information about available services and support.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation in part.

Recommendation 22

5.105 The Committee recommends that a national suicide prevention and awareness campaign should include a targeted approach to high-risk groups, in particular young people, people in rural and remote areas, men, Indigenous populations, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and the culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This approach should include the provision of culturally sensitive and appropriate information and services.
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Summary response

The Australian Government supports these recommendations with qualification.

As articulated in its submissions to the Senate Inquiry, the Government funds a number of activities that reduce the stigma of suicide, raise awareness of suicide prevention and the support available and encourage help seeking.

The Government will continue to review the evidence base in relation to these recommendations.

Recommendation 23

6.127 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government ensure telecommunications providers provide affordable access to telephone and online counselling services from mobile and wireless devices.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation and is taking action to address it.

Recommendation 24

6.129 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government commission an implementation study for a national toll-free crisis support telephone service to assist those at risk of suicide.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation. The Government supports a range of telephone based crisis support services and respects the individual brands of the organisations who run them, and a caller's choice in the service from which they wish to seek support.

Recommendation 25

6.132 The Committee recommends that the National Suicide Prevention Program include funding for projects to reduce access to means of suicide and prevention measures at identified 'suicide hotspots'. These interventions should be evidence based and in accordance with agreed guidelines.

Summary response

The Commonwealth Government supports this recommendation and has already taken action to address it.

Recommendation 26

6.134 The Committee recommends that the National Suicide Prevention Program should increase the funding and number of projects targeting men at risk of suicide.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation and has taken action to address it.

Recommendation 27

6.137 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government develop a separate suicide prevention strategy for Indigenous communities within the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. This should include programs to rapidly implement postvention services to Indigenous communities following a suicide to reduce the risk of further suicides occurring.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation noting its comprehensive approach to 'Closing the Gap' of Indigenous disadvantage in health.

Recommendation 28

6.141 The Committee recommends that the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other public agencies which collect health data record and track completed suicides and attempted suicides of those under 15 years of age.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation and has referred it to the ABS.

Recommendation 29

6.143 The Committee recommends that targeted programs be developed to provide community support group assistance for people who have attempted suicide and those who self harm.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation in principle and will continue to review the evidence base for future consideration of this recommendation.

Recommendation 30

6.145 The Committee recommends that additional resources be provided by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to mental health services. These services are recognised as functioning to reduce the rate of suicide and attempted suicide in Australia.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.
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Recommendation 31

6.147 The Committee recommends that additional 'gatekeeper' suicide awareness and risk assessment training be directed to people living in regional, rural and remote areas.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports each recommendation in relation to workforce training, noting that:
  • responsibility in some circumstances rests with states and territories; and
  • work in some areas has already commenced

Recommendation 32

6.149 The Committee recommends that lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and intersex people be recognised as a higher risk group in suicide prevention strategies, policies and programs, and that funding for targeted approaches to assist these groups be developed.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports the recommendation.

Recommendation 33

6.151 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments together with community organisations implement a national suicide bereavement strategy.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation and will continue to take the needs of this identified high risk group into the broader NSPS.

Recommendation 34

6.153 The Committee recommends the development of a National Suicide Prevention Program initiative targeting assistance to people recently released from correctional services.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation in-part, noting that states and territories have primary responsibility for this recommendation through forensic mental health services.

Recommendation 35 and recommendation 36

7.35 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government provide funding in the National Suicide Prevention Program for research projects into suicide prevention, including detailed evaluations of suicide prevention intervention.

7.39 The Committee recommends the Commonwealth government, as part of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, create a suicide prevention resource centre to collect and disseminate research and best practice regarding suicide prevention.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports these recommendations, noting there are various initiatives in place that address them.

Recommendation 37

8.57 The Committee recommends that following extensive consultation with community stakeholders and service providers, the next National Suicide Prevention Strategy include a formal signatory commitment as well as an appropriate allocation of funding through the Council of Australian Governments.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation and intends to consult with states and territories on a formal signatory commitment in further development of the NSPS.

Recommendation 38

8.60 The Committee recommends that an independent evaluation of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy should assess the benefits of a new governance and accountability structure external to government.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation. A 2009 study of suicide prevention strategies found that Australia's approach is effective by international comparisons
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Recommendation 39

8.64 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government double, at a minimum, the public funding of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, with further increases to be considered as the research and evaluation of suicide prevention interventions develops.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports this recommendation and has taken action to address it. Funding under the NSPP has more than doubled, from $8.6 million in 2005–06 to $23.8 million in 2010–11. In addition, $274 million over four years (2010–2014) has been allocated for the Mental health: Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package.

Recommendation 40

8.65 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments should facilitate the establishment of a Suicide Prevention Foundation to raise funding from government, business, community and philanthropic sources and to direct these resources to priority areas of suicide prevention awareness, research, advocacy and services.

Summary response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation and continues to work with non government organisations to provide services to the Australian population.

Recommendation 41

8.67 The Committee recommends that, where appropriate, the National Suicide Prevention Program provide funding to projects in longer cycles to assist the success and stability of projects for clients and employees.

Summary response

The Australian Government supports the recommendation in principle noting the four year budget cycles of Government and the need to ensure programs are sufficiently flexible to respond to emerging trends.

Recommendation 42

8.69 The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth government as part of a national strategy with State, Territory and local governments for suicide prevention set an aspirational target for the reduction of suicide by the year 2020.

Summary response

The Commonwealth Government supports this recommendation inprinciple noting experts have been unable to present a consistent view on the viability of a target as suicide is a multi faceted societal issue.