SUICIDE PREVENTION

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS         (         16:32         :21         ):  I move:

That this council—    

1.Notes the significant and unfortunate increase in the rates of suicide across the nation;    

2.Notes the motions of the member for Adelaide passed in the House of Assembly on 6   April 2011 and the Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins passed in this council on 24 November 2011 respectively;    

3.Notes the subsequent development of the South Australian Suicide Prevention Strategy;    

4.Encourages the efforts of all community organisations that are already working hard in this sector to continue their valuable contributions to suicide prevention throughout South Australia; and    

5.Urges the government to build on the work of the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist by increasing support for the ongoing establishment of suicide prevention networks in local communities.   

I rise today to move a motion about a subject that I have a great passion for, and I think an increasing number of people in the South Australian community and, might I say, across this nation and around the world are showing much greater interest in—that is, the issue of suicide, the prevention of suicide generally, and continuing the conversation and discussion in the community on a matter which in past days has been put behind us in the hope that it would go away. I think you, sir, and many other people in the community know of the enormous damage that suicide and attempted suicide causes in our communities.    

The rates of suicide in South Australia and across the country are steadily increasing. According to Lifeline Australia, deaths by suicide have reached a 10-year peak, with a mortality rate approximately double that of the national road toll. I think most of us recognise that there are some deaths amongst the road toll which are not registered as a suicide, but which probably should be, but they cannot always be completely proven to be in that regard, so I think in many senses the suicide toll is even higher. For every completed suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 other people attempt to end their life, which equates to approximately 200 attempted suicides across the country each day.    

I commend the government for the work it has done in recent times. I think its effort in relation to suicide prevention has increased, and that was necessary. In 2012, the state government released its Suicide Prevention Strategy, which was only initiated following motions carried in both houses of this parliament that were moved by Ms Rachel Sanderson MP, the member for Adelaide, and I in 2011.    

I am very proud that the Liberal Party took a policy to the 2014 election that centred around partnering with community organisations and providing them with funding to act as community gatekeepers to endeavour to minimise emergency room and hospital-based presentations due to suicide or attempts to complete suicide.    

That role is enormous. It is a role that so many of us in the general community can play to assist the mental health professionals not only in getting people to the right people at the right time but also, in many cases, by keeping them out of the system. My personal experience is that there are people I talk to on a regular basis, and I think that talking to those people keeps them out of the system and keeps them from taking their own life. The more we get people from the community to do that the better. I want to build on a couple of the points in the motion, particularly point 4:    

4.         Encourages the efforts of all community organisations that are already working hard in this sector to continue their valuable contributions to suicide prevention throughout South Australia.    

There are so many of these organisations; some are based out of non-government organisations—and obviously the churches have a significant role in that area—but there are also many others that have been created in a certain demographic or geographic area to deal with particular issues in relation to suicide prevention or assisting families bereaved by suicide.    

Last Friday night I was pleased to attend the Archbishop's Cathedral Banquet at St Peter's Cathedral. It served as the launch for an organisation created by Anglicare SA which will, I think, delve into another area of our fight against suicide and attempted suicide, and this relates particularly to the latter area. I will quote from the document we received that evening, from a page entitled A Cry for Help. It reads:    

Anglicare SA, in conjunction with Flinders Medical Centre's emergency department, is developing a vital pilot program to support individuals and their families at one of the hardest times of their lives—after a first suicide attempt. When this occurs, we know that they can be shocked, scared and they don't know what to do or where to turn. That's where Anglicare SA will step in—we will hear A Cry for Help…    

A Cry for Help is a holistic early-intervention program to support individuals and families, linking them with support services and providing them with a toolkit of what they might expect and where they can seek and receive help. Trained Anglicare SA caseworkers will assist them to connect with services—it could be help with communication, psychological support, financial counselling or increasing community connections.    

The question was asked on this document: how will the pilot program work?', and the answer is:    

When an individual presents at Flinders Medical Centre's emergency department after a first suicide attempt, the hospital will offer to connect them with Anglicare SA's A Cry For Help. The hospital will only make contact with permission. The next-of-kin—family or friends—will also be offered contact with A Cry For Help. Then the individual or their family will receive a phone call to start the process. After assessment, ongoing support will be offered over the phone, in person and through linking people into existing support systems. Where there is a gap in services Anglicare SA will strive to fill it. It is expected that the support will be offered over a six-week period on average.    

This is a very crucial comment at the end of that page of the document:    

Suicide doesn't discriminate, it can affect any family at any time.    

It is relevant to repeat one of the statistics I mentioned earlier, and that is that for every completed suicide it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt suicide, which equates to 180 attempts per day in Australia—that is more than one new attempt in this country every 10 minutes. Those sorts of things do bring back to our mind how extraordinarily serious is this issue.    

I indicate that two of the great supporters of the establishment of A Cry For Help are celebrity chef Simon Bryant and his brother, Richard, and they featured in a video presentation at the banquet heartily supporting this organisation. Of course, members may remember that very recently the Sunday Mail ran a large article about the impact on Simon Bryant and his brother, Richard, following the death by suicide of their mother, who was a medical practitioner. As they said in the presentation on Friday night, she was very good at looking after plenty of other people but not so good at looking after her own welfare. They wished that they had been able to see some signs and help her more in her time of need. That is something I want to do—to do as much as I can to get people and organisations from across the whole South Australian community involved in this work.    

The final part of the motion urges the government to build on the work of the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist by increasing support for the ongoing establishment of suicide prevention networks in local communities. I give the highest of praise to the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, particularly a lady in that office called Lynne James, who has been doing fabulous work around South Australia.    

I think Ms James is the only public servant dedicated to rolling out the suicide prevention strategy, and she has been doing some terrific work getting the network started in a number of communities, working with local governments around the state, and I have been involved in a number of communities with her and, in a different sense, in different communities, and that is how it should be. I am aware of the work she has done in my own home town in Gawler and also places like Whyalla, Murray Bridge and Mount Gambier, and I know she is working with a number of other communities around the state. I give her and that office great credit for involving me in the work they have done to launch these networks, and I am very grateful for that.    

However, I urge the government and the Minister for Mental Health to consider giving some more emphasis to the work of the Office of the Chief Psychiatrist in this area, because I think they are significantly limited by the number of staff and the fact that I think Ms James is the only one who is dedicated to that work.    

I was very grateful yesterday to listen to the speech by His Excellency the Governor and, certainly, there was a mention of suicide prevention—the issue of suicide generally—in that speech. I think it is important that we acknowledge, as the Governor said, that the rate of suicide in South Australia is unacceptable, and in rural areas the rates are significantly worse than those in the metropolitan areas. I do not disagree with the reference to the higher numbers in rural areas, but can I say that this issue is a huge problem for South Australia across the community, and it is not just in rural areas. It is not just young people or older men and it is not just in the Aboriginal community, although it is extraordinarily high in that community. It is in the defence force, it is in the gay and lesbian community, it is certainly in the disabled sector, and it is really high in so many facets of our community.    

The thing I would like to say about the metropolitan areas is that, when there is an issue in a country community, generally those communities get together and work out a way of dealing with it. In many of the larger metropolitan communities, people can be lonelier than anybody, ever, in a country community, and sometimes those people do not do a lot more in that community than sleep there so they hardly know anybody. I think we need to do a lot more in the metropolitan communities as well.    

I am grateful for the council's patience in listening to me on this subject. It is a great passion of mine. A similar motion will be moved in the lower house. As I said, I give credit to the government for its movement in this area but I think we need to continue to work very hard. One of the things that I am pleased the government did late in the election campaign was commit money to Lifeline in South Australia. It was late in the cycle: the Liberal Party had committed money to Lifeline much earlier, in the middle of last year. However, I am pleased that, finally, that commitment came because Lifeline is one of those organisations that is respected across the country but, like so many of these organisations that do the greatest work in this area, they run on the smell of an oily rag, and we need to make that rag a bit oilier.    

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. G.A. Kandelaars.