Mental health and suicide awareness

Please see me speaking on the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. 

July 22 2020

Mr DULUK (Waite) (12:46): I would also like to speak in favour of the motion moved by the member for Frome and I thank him for the numerous occasions since we have been in the house together for speaking up on these issues. Incredibly, eight Australians take their life every day by suicide in Australia. It is quite an incredible statistic. Of those many thousands who take their own life, over 75 per cent are male. Each year, a further 65,000 Australians attempt suicide and a further million reach out to Lifeline for support, with Lifeline taking a call about every 30 seconds. Just considering those stats in and of themselves is quite phenomenal.

I think we all know all of us in this chamber are affected by suicide and know people who have attempted to take their life or may have taken their life, and it is distressing for all of us. As the member for Frome alluded to, we all have our challenges with mental health and the most important thing to do is to be able to talk about it, to be able to know where to go and, most importantly, to be able to speak in an open and protected environment which is so important. As the member for Frome alluded to in his contribution, it is important for us to reach out and to be able to be listened to and to be able to listen on behalf of people as well.

As the member for Mount Gambier alluded to in his contribution, there are thousands of volunteers and people who work in the mental health space across our communities. As the member for Heysen said, he has a suicide prevention group in Strath and I have a very active one in the Mitcham Hills as well. I would like to thank Rob and Lyn and the very young at heart Mary Strange who is well into her nineties now and actively participates in the Mitcham Hills Suicide Prevention Network group. I thank them for their advocacy in my community.

As the motion alludes to, it is about awareness and reducing the stigma around mental health and suicide. Using the four-step method can help save lives, first of all by asking, 'Are you okay?' and then it is about actively listening and engaging. If someone has experienced difficulties, encourage them to take action by finding a relevant organisation or counselling service or visiting a GP. Issues as big as these cannot be left unmet. I was going to say 'untreated' but I think 'unmet' is a more important word to use.

Start up a conversation. Talk to your family and friends. It is so important. As members of parliament, I think we should do exactly what the member for Frome has done in his motion: talk about the issues. Yesterday, I and many of my colleagues here signed the National Communications Charter, which is the pledge to help reduce the stigma around mental health and promote the use of safe language when discussing mental illness or suicide.

The use of safe language is so important. For example, we know that, especially in the media, especially in a political context, the media use very inflammatory language. They might say 'political suicide' or 'noose around her neck'. This is quite a common theme that you will hear used by journalists in relation to politics and politicians. This language is most unhelpful. It is unnecessary and we know that there is a whole body of work that has been done in the community about the right language.

I think that it is not just important for us as members of parliament to use the right language around these issues but also for those in the media, when talking about and describing politics, to not use words associated with the stigma of mental health or words associated with suicide. That is for everyone who works in the media.

The National Communications Charter is a resource for uniting people to align with the 2017-2021 South Australian Suicide Prevention Plan. As I said, it is very worthy of MPs to sign up to use the right language and to support our communities, as the member for Frome is doing in his community, to raise awareness to beat this terrible affliction on our society.