Each year, more than 3000 Australians die by suicide. That is more than double the number who die on Australian roads.
Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy that effects individuals, families and communities.
Suicide and suicide prevention are topics we need to get better at talking about.
Despite increasing expenditure on mental health services and suicide prevention programs, Australia has not seen a meaningful decrease in the number of lives lost to suicide in over two decades.
It is very clear we need a new approach.
For too long we have approached suicide as solely an issue of mental illness.
The reality is that, while there are strong links, mental ill-health is not the only factor in suicide.
People who die by suicide typically have on average three to four contributing factors.
These factors include unemployment, financial insecurity, domestic and family violence and past or compounded trauma.
We also know that around 40 per cent of people who die by suicide have no diagnosed presence of mental or behavioural disorders.
Numerous reports - many of them drawing on those who may have attempted suicide or have lost loved ones to it - have highlighted the very critical need to expand our suicide prevention efforts in order to address these underlying causes of distress.
That's why our government is making an overdue change to how we approach suicide.
We are taking a whole-of-life approach to suicide prevention and a whole of government approach to suicide prevention policy.
What this means is that we aren't only responding through mental health support but working to alleviate the underlying pressures in people's lives which cause distress.
This will improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of Australians, reduce the need for emergency healthcare and, most importantly, save lives.
To use an analogy, if a boat has a leak, you plug the hole and continue on your journey.
If that same boat is taking on water with holes throughout its hull, you fix the issues that are causing the problems in the first place.
For a decade Australians have been living with leaky boat.
Slow wage growth, a deteriorating health care system, ongoing natural disasters.
We're determined to do something different, to address the drivers of distress at the source so that fewer people end up in our emergency departments.
This is reflected in our recent historic investments in primary care, aged care and cost-of-living relief.
There is no single fix nor one single response.
People live complex lives and things such as cost of living, mortgage stress, unemployment, divorce and social isolation exacerbate these drivers of distress.
As a Government we are shifting our approach to suicide prevention to one of proactive prevention addressing the drivers of distress by fostering and protecting wellbeing and strengthening communities.
This opinion piece was published in The Daily Telegraph on Thursday, 1 June 2023.