| May 21, 2018

National Suicide Prevention Trial

I, too, would like to congratulate the member for Grey for bringing forward this motion on the National Suicide Prevention Trial. As a government, we are proud of the fact that we are extending this groundbreaking suicide prevention trial for a further year with an additional $13 million investment to ensure that local communities have more time to trial their services and to report on what's working and what's not. The National Suicide Prevention Trial is based on 12 locations across Australia, and will now run until 30 June 2020. I'm very grateful for the extension of the additional 12 months, although it's worth pointing out that regional Victoria has been left out. That's an area that we can look forward to in the future.

The resources needed to tackle suicide in regional farming communities in drought may be very different to the resources that are needed to tackle suicide in the inner cities of Melbourne or Sydney. The reasons for that difference may be the many external issues that many of our regional Australians are subject to. In regional Australia, for so many people their whole financial success or otherwise can be subject to the weather. World commodity prices, which many of our regional Australians have no control over—the world commodity price for milk, or fruit, or grain, or whatever it is—can seriously impact upon the viability and the sheer profitability of many people in regional Australia. The lack of access to people with the qualifications to help with a mental health problem can also be a factor as to why we have such different outcomes between those in metropolitan cities and those in regional Australia.

Apart from funding the suicide prevention extension, we are also funding additional mental health nurses in my electorate of Murray. These nurses are having a profound impact on the people they are helping. Mental health nurses are extremely valued in our primary healthcare system. We as a government are very determined to support them whilst the mental healthcare system is transformed and modernised. The PHNs, I might add, are playing a major role in that.

In the last budget, just two weeks ago, we also added a $20 million injection for mental health nurses to support Australians over 75 whose mental and physical health are at risk because of social isolation and loneliness. It highlights the strong commitment from this government.

I also want to touch on some of these differences in relation to remoteness being a major risk factor contributing to suicide. Breaking down the data from 2010 to 2014—I know it's a few years old—it shows that the major cities have the lowest rate of suicide deaths, at 9.8 people per 100,000. In inner regional areas it goes to 13. For outer regional residents the rate is 14.3. But for remote residents, it is 19 deaths, so it's more than double that of people in major metropolitan cities. Also, young people who live outside capital cities seem to be at a much heightened risk of suicide. The break down of those statistics shows that in 2010 in the capital cities—and, again, I know it's older—it is 5.9 per 100,000 in the 15 to 19 year old age bracket. Once you start to move out of the capitals it goes to 10.3, which is getting up towards double. Then, for 20 to 24 year olds outside the capitals it is 16.5. Again, a bit more responsibility in those 20 to 24 year olds—outside of the capitals there seems to be a very strong trend there.

We need to seriously look at what we are doing with this very, very important program. We need to look at regional Australia, the areas outside of the capitals, because it seems that that is where we as a society and we as a government are failing to address the high level of suicides.

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