Suicide prevention

Mr DULUK (Waite) (15:23): I rise today to speak about the serious topic of suicide in relation to the recent work that I have begun as the chair of the state government's Issues Group on Suicide Prevention. The loss of life under any circumstances is always difficult but the notion that any person would intentionally take their own life is incredibly distressing to so many in our society. The reasons people take their own life are complex and often there is no single reason why a person attempts suicide or is successful at suicide.

Society's approach to people who have issues with mental health and suicidal thoughts continues to improve each and every year, and it is fundamentally important that we continue to support organisations that play such a great role in suicide prevention. It is these groups, whether they be in our community, such as those in my Blackwood and Mitcham communities, or as part of government such as the issues group I chair on suicide prevention that continue to facilitate discussion and ensure that governments and, more importantly, our society adequately provide care for people who are going through a difficult time and require access to appropriate services.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44 and is the biggest cause of death of men in that cohort. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that over 3,000 people died from suicide in 2017. Deaths from intentional self-harm occur among males at a rate more than three times greater than that of females. For every death by suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 people have attempted to take their own life.

Last year, the Premier appointed the Hon. John Dawkins from the other place as his Advocate for Suicide Prevention. Shortly after, the Premier's Council on Suicide Prevention was established. The issues group is a working group of the Premier's council and tasked with supporting the council by providing information and reporting on new initiatives and programs to enhance the ability to facilitate change in policy and community awareness.

The issues group involves 22 senior executives from state government agencies who work collaboratively on mental health and wellbeing strategies for their workplace and their consumers. In identified high-risk areas, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander portfolio and emergency first responders, there is more than one representative on the issues group. We meet monthly for approximately two hours and work closely with the Department for Health and Wellbeing's suicide prevention unit and the SA Mental Health Commission to identify key cross-sector issues for the public sector in suicide prevention.

It is so important that government works in a collaborative fashion, and it is fantastic that Ms Erma Ranieri, the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, sits on this issues group and co-chairs it with me, ensuring that government agencies have the ability to share employee and consumer programs, ideas, data and statistics to best create good public policy. We are also guided by the South Australian Mental Health Commissioner, Chris Burns, and SA Chief Psychiatrist, Dr John Brayley.

As the biggest employer in the state, it is important that the public sector has mechanisms in place to work together in providing the best support for their staff, resulting in a positive effect to their families, other work colleagues and community members. The Premier's council and the issues group on suicide prevention both support initiatives and events run by local suicide prevention networks across South Australia.

There are 34 community-based suicide prevention networks linked predominantly to local council regions currently in operation, and this number continues to expand. The issues group assists in increasing the profile and reach of suicide prevention programs for both public sector staff and consumers. Examples of some of the work that we have been undertaking and looking at is the establishment of working groups to investigate and progress data collection in the state. That is so important in many of the key emergency service departments.

We are ensuring that local suicide networks are present at country field days to hand out information on suicide prevention and counselling services. We are looking at ways of addressing actions within the state suicide prevention plan specific to individual agencies, reporting back and then using that data to best create good public policy. They are some of the positive examples that we have been working on to date.

The state government is committed to improving efforts to reduce the state's suicide rate. It is indeed a state and national tragedy. We are working towards breaking down the stigma surrounding suicide and encouraging people to seek help when they are having suicidal thoughts. Every effort—and we are doing this to increase awareness on the importance of suicide prevention—is critical. Through community programs, we can break down that stigma and hopefully save lives.