It’s time to act now

Lifeline Australia is calling on the Federal Government to double its funding for suicide prevention as rates continue to rise across the country.

The national crisis support and suicide prevention service has launched an online petition, seeking one million signatures before the May federal budget.

Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows 2864 people took their own life in 2014 – almost eight per day.

The figures do not surprise Lifeline Gippsland chief executive Claire Davis, who has joined the national charity’s calls for concrete action.

“I think it’s really a call to action for people. Lifeline is terming it a national emergency; it’s about time there was some real investment from a federal level to actually tackle this,” Ms Davis said.

“The issue touches so many people, either indirectly or directly… it’s really about garnering some community support and actually putting some pressure on the Federal Government.”

Late last year Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley announced a series of reforms in response to the National Mental Health Commission’s Review of Mental Health Programs and Services.

The changes – to be rolled out over three years from 2016 to 2019 – include a digital mental health gateway; coordinated care packages for people with severe or complex needs and mental health services to be commissioned by the country’s Primary Health Networks.

A new approach to suicide prevention, coordinated by the PHNs, is also among the reforms.

“Understandably Lifeline is concerned at the trend we are seeing, not just in 2014 but over recent years and, of course, so am I and so is the government,” Ms Ley said.

“Any preventable death is sad and I can assure you our continued focus is on understanding what issues are contributing to these increases.”

The Commonwealth allocated about $32 million specifically to suicide prevention at the national and community level during 2015-16.

It will provide about $36 million in the next financial year under the new National Suicide Prevention Strategy, as outlined in the government’s response to the commission’s review.

More than 50 per cent of this funding will be delivered through a flexible funding pool for mental health and suicide prevention.

Ms Davis hopes to see increased collaboration and communication among support services and organisations as the changes come into play.

She called on the community to talk to those they had noticed were acting withdrawn or differently, which would hopefully encourage people to seek help.

“(The data is) not surprising, but it just makes us more determined to do what we need to do and work with the local community to build their skills and have those conversations,” Ms Davis said.

“It’s not something we can sweep under the carpet anymore, it’s something we need to challenge as a community and everybody plays a part in that.”

If you are concerned about the mental health of you or someone you know, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.