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

3.1 Targeted support for high risk groups

Page last updated: 2010

Recommendation 26
Recommendation 27
Recommendation 29
Recommendation 30
Recommendation 32
Recommendation 33
Recommendation 34

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.

Response

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

The NSPP has men as a priority target group for funding with 12.6% of the total NSPP allocation for 2009/10–2010/11 invested in specific interventions that target men.

Recognising the social determinants that increase the risk of suicidality for men, and that men are least likely to seek help, the Government is providing $23.2 million over four years to provide more support and services for men as part of the Mental health: Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package. These measures will expand successful workplace programs, increase the capacity of helplines to support men, and support targeted campaigns for men's mental health.

Further investment of $22.6 million is provided through other elements of the package for community prevention activities for high risk groups, including men.

In May 2010, the Australian Government released the National Male Health Policy – Building on the Strengths of Australian Males8, the first of its kind in Australia. This policy is built from a social determinants framework which correlates with the evidence base of factors for heightened risk of suicidality, including employment issues, the strength of social networks and relationships.

A number of health-related initiatives and services will be developed under the Policy, for example:
  • $16.7 million announced in May 2010 will target key activity areas, including:

    • $3 million over four years for the Australian Men's Sheds Association (AMSA) to provide meeting places and social support for marginalised and isolated males and contribute to improvements in male health and wellbeing; and

    • $6 million over three years to promote the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers and partners, grandfathers and uncles, and encourage them to actively participate in, and connect with, their children's and families' lives, particularly in the antenatal and early childhood development years.
The Australian Government is focusing on better coordination of responses to men at risk of suicide. Work is currently underway to identify current funding and activities that promote male health and wellbeing in priority groups for Indigenous males, veterans and defence personnel. Top of page

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.

Response

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

The rate of suicide in the Indigenous population is more than double that of the non-indigenous population (4.2% compared to 1.5%).

In line with this recommendation, the Australian Government will develop an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy. This process will draw on the expertise of relevant advisory mechanisms, including the Indigenous Strategies Working Group (ISWG) through the Australian Suicide Prevention Advisory Council, the National Indigenous Health Equality Council (NIHEC) and other targeted Indigenous mental health experts. In early 2011, a consultation process will be coordinated to recommend appropriate mental health and wellbeing approaches for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This will inform the implementation of the Mental health: Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package. This work will build on the former National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2004–2009.9

The 2010 Mental health: Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package includes $22.6 million for community prevention activities for high risk groups which target groups and communities at high risk of suicide, including Indigenous Australians. This community-based effort aims to encourage linkages and connections within and between communities. It could facilitate initiatives such as training community leaders to better identify and respond to suicide; or help establish networks between communities that have responded successfully to suicide clusters in the past and those communities currently experiencing high rates of suicide.

The NSPP has Indigenous Australians as a priority target group for funding with 22% of the total NSPP allocation for 2009/10–2010/11 invested in specific interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In addition, the Commonwealth delivers a number of specific programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that contribute to suicide prevention, improved mental health and associated social outcomes, including:
  • the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation which empowers communities to cope with health and social issues arising through loss and grief;

  • the Link Up and Bringing Them Home (BTH) Programs support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people separated from their families as a result of past governments' removal policies, institutionalisation and adoption or foster care. The Link Up program provides family tracing and reunions, and BTH provides support and counselling;

  • the 2010 Closing the Gap election package will invest $20 million over four years into the Breaking the cycle of substance abuse program. This program will build on the 2007 COAG Closing the Gap – Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Services measure which provided $49.3m over four years to expand holistic and culturally appropriate substance and alcohol treatment services nationally and encourage appropriate referral to mental health services and acute health services;

  • Social and Emotional Wellbeing Workforce Support Units; and

  • Mobile Outreach Service Plus ($15.6 million over four years);
The Government's investment in broader population mental health initiatives such as the Kids Helpline Expanded Indigenous Services Project and the Mental Health Services in Rural and Remote Areas (MHSRRA) program also provides support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Kids Helpline Expanded Indigenous Services Project aims to improve the cultural competence of Kids Helpline counsellors to respond effectively to Indigenous callers. Kids Helpline is promoting access in collaboration with the elders within a number of remote Indigenous communities in Western Australia and Queensland.

The Targeted Community Care (TCC) program, delivered by the Department of Family, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FAH CSIA) allows for a culturally appropriate and family-centred approach to managing mental health and is well-placed to contribute to reducing the risk of suicide through early intervention and prevention. In addition, the Personal Helpers and Mentors Program (PHaMs) Remote Service Model is specifically designed to meet the needs of remote Indigenous communities, including providing assistance with suicide prevention and post suicide interventions.

The National Male Health Policy – Building on the Strengths of Australian Males, identifies risk factors for Indigenous males and funds targeted efforts to promote wellbeing in communities. The Policy also contains guiding principles that can be used in the development of policy and programs.

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.Top of page

Response

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

A number of components under the Mental health: Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package will improve community-based support for those who have attempted suicide and those who may intentionally self harm:
  • $22.6 million over four years will be invested in community-led suicide prevention activities that target at risk groups, including those who have previously attempted suicide;

  • $23.6 million will be provided over three years for More psychological services for people who have attempted or are at risk of suicide, to help reduce repeated attempts at suicide and to provide holistic support to people on discharge from hospital after a suicide attempt or after an event of self-harm. This will enable the national roll out of the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAP S) pilot program;

  • $60 million over three years will support people living with severe mental illness by Boosting non-clinical support services through personal helpers to help manage daily activities, or respite services to provide carers with time off;$18.7 million over three years for the Outreach teams to schools program will provide intensive postvention and mental health targeted interventions for school communities at significantly higher risk, particularly those bereaved by suicide; and

  • $21.6 million over four years will provide Services for children with mental health and developmental issues. Medicare Locals will also work with GPs, child and maternal health clinics, schools and other social services to improve linkages and support networks for children with severe behavioural problems or mental health issues, to prevent suicide later in life.
In addition the VVCS - Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service will continue to provide case management services in close consultation with treatment facilities, treating or consultant psychiatrist, general practitioner and other relevant community based agencies.

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.

Response

The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

The challenges in Mental Health are complex and require a coordinated and careful balance of services. The Government is looking across the age and illness spectrum to plan a connected mental health service for the future that works for all people affected by mental ill health, building on the achievements and investments to date including:.
  • Australian Government funding for mental health specific programs (including Indigenous programs) over the next four years will almost triple to $1.4 billion, compared to $516 million in the four years to 2007–08;

  • $175.8m allocated in April 2010 to improve gaps in the mental health system as part of the National Health and Hospital Network (NHHN). These measures focus improving services for disadvantaged groups, including significant expansion of early intervention services for young people and tailored coordinated packages of care for the most vulnerable in the community;

  • an extra $274 million over four years to redouble efforts to tackle suicide through the Mental health: Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package;

  • including people with severe mental illness as a target group for the $1.6 billion investment in sub-acute care places under the NHHN. Extra communitybased residential mental health beds will ease transitions from hospital to the community and reduce the need for hospitalisation.

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.Top of page

Response

The Australian Government supports the recommendation.

The Living is for Everyone (LIFE) Framework10 recognises those in the GLBTI community as a group at high risk of suicide, and offers strategies for targeted suicide prevention activities to address the needs of individuals and prevent suicide under a number of key elements.

Targeted interventions and support networks for GLBTI people will be encouraged through the $22.4 million Community Prevention activities for high risk groups component of the Mental Health: Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package.

Recommendation 33

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

Response

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

In the five year period 2006/07 to 2010/11 the NSPP has allocated $18.03 million to suicide bereavement projects, an average of 17.5% of the total NSPP allocation for that period. The vast majority of this funding (93%) is being provided directly to suicide bereavement service delivery projects around the country.

The LIFE Framework recognises those bereaved by suicide as a group at high risk of suicide, and identifies loss of a friend, family member or peer group as a tipping point for suicide. The framework offers strategies for targeted suicide prevention activities to address the needs of such individuals.

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.

Response

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

The LIFE Framework recognises those who have recently been released from correctional services as a group at high risk of suicide, and offers strategies for targeted suicide prevention activities for these individuals.

The Australian Government will raise this recommendation with states and territories.

Footnotes

8 National Male Health Policy – Building on the Strengths of Australian Males, Department of Health and Ageing: Canberra
9 National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2004–2009. Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health: Canberra
10 Living is for Everyone. 2007a. A Framework for Prevention of Suicide in Australia. Department of Health and Ageing: Canberra. Living is for everyone (www.livingisforeveryone.com.au)