Mental health experts want federal election candidates to support suicide prevention trials in regional Australia after releasing a report revealing suicide rates exceeded road fatalities in 28 electorates audited between 2009 and 2012.
Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre said leading mental health advocates want candidates to commit to a national suicide prevention program and support a suicide prevention trial in 12 regions.
"It's really the rural and regional areas that suffer the most," said Professor Hickie, who noted that economic impacts such as the mining downturn, drought, and the closure of regional industries were major risk factors.
"They're the areas in which we see high suicide rates two to three times the national average and we need focused intensive activity in those communities."
The audit of 28 electorates shows suicide rates exceeded the road toll in every electorate surveyed, while 23 of the 28 seats had high to extremely high suicide rates.
It's really the rural and regional areas that suffer the most.
ConNetica Director John Mendoza, who led the study, said the rate of suicide and self-harm was a national emergency.
"If we had any other cause of death increase by that magnitude we would have a very assertive, nationally coordinated response to it," said Associate Professor Mendoza, noting that Australian suicides had risen by nearly 20 per cent in the decade to 2014.
“What we see in electorates like Canning, Capricornia, Corangamite and Cunningham, is the impact of economic change. Issues like the loss of manufacturing, the downturn in the manufacturing, resources and construction, housing affordability and the high cost of education and retraining is hitting hard.”
“What we see in these electorates is that every region is different and every region requires a regional response,” said Professor Hickie, who co-authored the National Mental Health Review that recommended a suicide prevention trial in regional Australia 18 months ago.
“Eighteen months ago the National Mental Health Commission called for 12 large regional trials on suicide prevention as part of its aim to reduce suicide and suicide attempts by 50 per cent over the next decade. We are yet to hear a clear response from the major parties to this recommendation from the Commission.
“Australians have a right to know what our political leaders will do about this. We are calling upon all the major parties to outline what they will do to address suicide if they are elected.”
Professor Mendoza added: “We call upon every candidate in the House of Representatives and the Senate to spell out what they will do for their communities to tackle suicide and self-harm.”
Resources and more information
The call to action by mental health experts is accompanied by an Action Agenda for the 45th Parliament.
The new report was led by consultancy ConNetica and the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre.
The Federal Government’s response to the National Mental Health Review is available here.
Contact the following services for support
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
Headspace on 1800 650 890
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