Statement on significant matter: World Suicide Prevention Day

Read a transcript of Assistant Minister McBride's statement to the House of Representative.

The Hon Emma McBride MP
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health

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Speaker, this Sunday is World Suicide Prevention Day.

For many people it may be just another day, but for the families and friends of the 3,000 Australians, who die by suicide each year it will be a day of reflection and remembering.

Nine people, of whom six are men, die by suicide each day. Young people are most at risk with suicide remaining the leading cause of death for Australians between 15 and 44 years of age. 

First Nations Australians are twice as likely to die by suicide as non-Indigenous Australians.

That reality is front of mind when I think about why we need an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

Because our best chance to overcome the distress from intergenerational trauma faced by First Nations Australians is through listening and real action.

For my colleagues and I, Sunday is a reminder that we must take every action we can to better understand and address the factors that lead to suicide.

Its impacts are devastating and far-reaching through families, friends, first responders, schools and communities.

In this chamber, and in the other place, suicide and suicide prevention is a non-partisan issue.

Because our actions and our words matter.

While the reason for an individual’s suicide are personal and often complex, overall peaks and troughs in rates and number of deaths by suicide historically coincide more of less with social and economic events.

Because of that, we cannot separate the distress that many people across the world are facing, including here in Australia, from the experience of the global pandemic.

We all know stories of distress, loneliness and isolation. They are the stories of family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and strangers.

We must also acknowledge that like many catastrophic events, the trauma that follows will often have a long tail, and the impact will be felt most heavily by the most vulnerable.

Speaker, there are strong links between mental ill-health and suicide which is why we are determined to provide compassionate and effective support and care to people who need them.

We are boosting support in communities by rolling out new Head to Health clinics, which provide free mental health information, support and care to adults, and strengthening the network of more than 150 headspace centres across the country for young people.

We are also working with states and territories to introduce Kids Hubs to address mental ill-health through prevention and early intervention.

We are strengthening our primary care to make it easier and more affordable see a GP. From November 1, we are indexing of the Medicare Rebate and a tripling the Bulk Billing Incentive.

And this is important because a GP is often the front door to mental health care.

But we also recognise that the causes of suicide are complex. Economic, cultural and social determinants interacting with individual risk factors over time.

People who die by suicide typically have three or four risk factors, or drivers of distress, including unemployment, financial insecurity, domestic and family violence, and past or compounded trauma.

That’s why we need to focus on addressing the drivers of distress, through a whole of government, whole of society, approach to suicide prevention.

What this means is responding through mental health supports, and at the same time working to reduce the underlying pressures in people's lives.

Right at the top of that list, is reducing financial pressure through cost-of-living relief.

In a few weeks’ time, on September 20, the base rates of working-age and student payments such as Youth Allowance and parenting payments will increase including Job Seeker.

We are providing more funding to address housing insecurity and homelessness so that every Australian has the dignity of a home, working in close partnership with state and territory Government’s to boost supply and provide certainty to individuals and families.

We are committed to addressing domestic, family and sexual violence, with a GP working full time seeing up to five women every week who are victim-survivors of gender-based violence in the past 12 months, it is clear that we need to do more.

That’s why we are implementing the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children and better equipping our health care workers to earlier identify and care for those at risk.

We also need to make sure communities are buffered from the impact of the increased frequency and severity of natural disasters.

Which is why we have introduced the National Disaster Mental Health and Wellbeing Framework, giving our first responders the very best of support while they support us.

Work across government, beyond the provision of health care is necessary if we are to reduce suicide. 

Because, despite increasing expenditure on mental health services and suicide prevention, Australia has not seen a significant decrease in the number of lives lost to suicide in more than two decades.

We also know that around 40 per cent of people who die by suicide have no diagnosed mental or behavioural disorders.

Suicide risk is directly linked to socio-economic status, with those living in the lowest socio-economic areas having more than double the rate of suicide compared to those in the highest.

Those looking for work are far more likely to take their own lives than those working.

We need to improve not just our systems of care, but our laws, structures and policies that often trap people in cycles of disadvantage.

A few months ago, the Treasurer released the very first ‘Measuring What Matters Statement’.

It is a step in the right direction, recognising that economic indicators can only tell us so much.

As the Treasurer has said, this document is designed to help us better understand how we are faring as we build a more healthy, secure, sustainable, cohesive and prosperous Australia.

And while governments shape policy, this day serves as an important reminder that change can occur in every town, suburb and city.

While suicide is an individual act, rates of suicide reflect communities and we all have a role to play.

This year, the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day is 'Creating Hope Through Action' – a reminder that we can all take action to respond compassionately to people experiencing distress.

Together, we can make sure that no one has to face their darkest moments alone.

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