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Charities praise government for extending vital suicide prevention trials

Extended suicide prevention trials targets regional consumers at greatest risk of suicide

Major mental health charity organisations are commending the Turnbull government for extending a multimillion-dollar suicide prevention trial that will target consumers with a higher than average suicide risk in regional communities across the country.

The scheme will receive a budget boost of $13 million to continue across additional sites and will highlight the need for national leadership to support Primary Health Networks – including GPs, health providers and hospitals.

Lifeline Australia CEO, Pete Shmigel, said the extended trials indicated the Australian government had a genuine commitment to tackling Australia’s suicide crisis.

“This announcement of four more trial sites – in regional areas with high suicide rates – shows that the Federal government is focusing on key areas of need in seeking to deliver national suicide reduction outcomes through local service delivery.”

“We need this strong leadership backed up by a sound national suicide prevention plan, one that addresses social, emotional and psychological protective and risk factors and sets priority targets,” Shmigel said.

Each trial site will receive an additional $1 million. The Black Dog Institute, which is currently supporting the program, will also receive additional funding.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced four new suicide prevention trial sites in Darwin, Central Queensland, Western New South Wales and mid-Western Australia would join the eight that were announced in February after the trial proved successful.

“The message from the ground is we are seeing progress and what we want to do as a government is make sure that we have the right approach to mental health,” Hunt told ABC Radio on Monday.

The MP said the government eventually hopes to make the program permanent and extend it across the country after trialling different methods in different communities.

“Preventing suicide is a complex problem and a one-size-fits-all strategy for dealing with the challenge may not be the best approach,” Hunt said. “We recognise that the causes of suicide and the resources needed to prevent it will vary from town to town and from region to region.”

Two of these trial sites will be in Indigenous communities. The suicide rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is more than double the national rate. In 2015, suicide accounted for 5.2 per cent of all indigenous deaths compared to 1.8 per cent for non-indigenous people.

“Each year over 3,000 Australians take their lives and the suicide rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is around twice that of non-indigenous people,” Hunt said.

“These are statistics we must reverse. As a community we must do all we can to turn the tide and reduce our suicide rate.”

Shmigel said the local and tailored solutions are the way to go and are stronger when supported with national guidance of local community sectors.

“We need this strong leadership backed up by a sound national suicide prevention plan, one that addresses social, emotional and psychological protective and risk facts and sets priority targets.”

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