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Doorstop interview on suicide prevention research grants

Read the transcript of Minister Hunt’s announcement of $400,000 for innovative suicide prevention research.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP
Former Minister for Health and Aged Care

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We know that mental health and suicide are deep national challenges and tragedies.

Since well before the election, the Prime Minister has been personally, profoundly engaged. I've been very heartened by his focus on youth mental health and suicide prevention and suicide prevention across all age groups.

Since the election, he's been very, very involved in deep planning meetings looking at the problems, the causes and the solutions going forward.

We have an $800 million youth mental health and mental health and suicide prevention plan. Today I'm delighted to announce that there will be four new projects. Within that focused on saving lives and protecting lives, with regard to suicide prevention.

In particular, the focus on people who are discharged from hospitals. Giving them the best support after they have been in hospital for a suicide attempt or suicidality.

Support for refugees and asylum seekers. Support for people who have alcohol or drug dependency and are at risk of suicide and also support for communities that have suicide clusters or have sites which are sadly the source of a lot of suicides.

These are the next steps in what is a major national task but we will continue to work with the experts with the communities and also to work on destigmatising mental health.

There's been immense progress over the last two decades. But frankly there's more to do. Too many young people, too many people of all ages feel that they can't seek help because they are still worried as to what it will mean for them within their family their community, their workplace more generally.

And the message is very simple. This can happen to anybody. It's absolutely normal. Please seek help. Please don't feel as if you are alone, because nobody is alone. It’s part of life and it can happen to anybody and the services are there.

But we need to help you believe that those services are for you and that everybody is better off if we seek help.


Is any of this going to increase the number of free sessions that people can get under the Medicare scheme and what also about waiting lists? It can take sometimes more than a month to get into see a psychologist?


So on both of those fronts, we've just announced $150 million for headspace as part of a $350 million package.

In particular, that funding is aimed at reducing waiting lists and increasing the speed with which people can access support.

Secondly in terms of psychological services, we've already expanded through the Medicare Taskforce the psychological services that are available for eating disorders and the Taskforce which is the expert national body is currently assessing those.

And indeed, I met with the head of the Taskforce, Professor Bruce Robinson, two days ago and time looking forward to their recommendations and if they recommend more services we will deliver them.


Would that include free sessions? Just because at the moment you're only get 10 a calendar year. That could run out pretty quickly. As part of suicide prevention, do you think that you'll be expanding that?


So that's exactly what happened. Once the Taskforce recommended additional services, free services for eating disorders. They're currently considering that now across a range of different mental health conditions. I am very open to that and if they recommend it we will support it.


Just with the - will this - you talked about refugees will these the extra services for people on offshore refugee centres, processing centres where there is reports of poor mental health?


Look we're looking at support in all circumstances and so wherever people have mental health challenges it's our task and it's our duty to assist and to protect them.


Including on offshore processing centres?


In all circumstances yes.


Today there's reports of Australian spy agency agencies focusing more resources domestically. What do you make of that? Do you think that's where they should be for the best?


Look I'll leave that for the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs.

Respectfully, our task is to protect Australians. That's to protect Australians at home and abroad. And we know that there have been significant terrorism threats that have been detected and stopped over the last five years.

On the specific questions though I'll respectfully leave that to the relevant ministers.


You obviously got the result you wanted in May. There has been though, some significant problems for the Victoria Liberal Party highlighted by the November state election. What advice are you offering to your State colleagues at this forum?


Look we will work with them as one party. They want to work with us and what we see is that there are ups and downs over the course of a political cycle.

Our task is to remain focused on delivering for people if you are offering them hope and opportunity in their own lives and hope and opportunity for the broader community, with the belief that you can actually deliver then that's the strongest recipe for success.


Why has the state sphere I guess failing to deliver that?


Look at the federal level we've been fortunate to win the support of the public in seven of the last nine federal elections. And so always we work together to find what will help any one part of the national movement best deliver.

So I won't go into the specifics in relation to Victoria. I will say our task is to work with them and our task is to work with Victoria on better results for Victoria.

And right now, Alan Tudge is working with the Victorian Government to get these projects for congestion busting infrastructure delivered and we want them to come on board and to work with us to deliver that infrastructure.

Okay. Thank you very much.

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