Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:10): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Health and Wellbeing regarding mental health and suicide.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: Members of the council will know of my long support for suicide prevention for all South Australians and of my current work as the Premier's Advocate for Suicide Prevention. Some will also be aware of my long association with the Newcastle-based Everymind, formerly the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, and its highly regarded Mindframe program. Will the minister update the council on initiatives to reduce the stigma related to mental health and suicide?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing) (15:10): I thank the honourable member for his question and acknowledge his long-term work on suicide prevention amongst South Australians. The former Labor government was not committed to comprehensive suicide prevention because they failed to adequately plan and fund mental health services. The Marshall Liberal government, on the other hand, has made a strong commitment to change in that area. The government is committed to redressing the imbalance and working with the community and with key stakeholders in their efforts

In that regard, I would particularly like to pay tribute to the efforts of the mental health commissioner. Earlier today and yesterday, there were two fora to promote the importance of language in relation to mental illness and suicide. Last night, over 80 media professionals, communications leaders, lecturers and students attended the Walking through a Mindfield forum. I understand there may have been some members of the chamber there: the Hon. Tammy Franks, I understand, and the Hon. John Dawkins were also present.

This morning, I had the pleasure of launching the Mind Your Words forum specifically for members of parliament, both electorate and ministerial, at Parliament House. Both forums were organised by the SA Mental Health Commission and featured presentations by Mindframe to encourage responsible, accurate and sensitive representations of mental illness and suicide in the Australian media.

The Mental Health Commission is undertaking these fora and many other events and projects as it implements the SA Mental Health Strategic Plan 2017-2022. A core strategy of the plan is to strengthen mental health and wellbeing through prevention and early intervention as well as to improve awareness and reduce stigma.

Mental illness is very common, with 45 per cent of Australians experiencing a diagnosable mental illness in their life. The way we speak and write about mental illness and suicide impacts us all and it impacts our communities. Words have the power to reduce stigma and promote empowerment for those experiencing mental ill health. The use of emphatic and non-judgemental language makes it safer to talk openly about mental health and encourages people to get support early. Rather than hiding mental illness or feeling ashamed, people will hear the message that recovery is not only possible, but likely. That's why forums such as these are important. The forum for media professionals attracted almost 100 attendees for the Mindframe presentation.

I would like to thank all of the media professionals who were involved, including university lecturers and students. This morning's forum for MPs and staff was a bipartisan event and attracted MPs and staff from across the state. In that context, I thank two members from the other place: Sam Duluk, the member for Waite, and Mr Blair Boyer, the member for Wright, and from this place the Hon. John Darley, who jointly hosted this important event.

The forum addressed the use of language in relation to mental illness, in speeches, media releases, interaction with constituents and social media posts. MPs and staff also received advice on self-care, which is particularly important today because we know that mental health is as important as our physical health. I encourage all of us, our staff and all South Australians to take care of their mental health and wellbeing so they can cope with daily challenges, build healthy relationships and work productively. I encourage all members and staff to utilise the resources currently available on the SA Mental Health website in relation to language and self-care.