On Thursday, the Morrison government announced it is investing $64 million in suicide prevention, including $7 million over two years towards suicide aftercare and the expansion of The Way Back Support Service.
The investment comes in response to Christine Morgan’s first report to the Prime Minister, after she was appointed as the National Suicide Prevention Adviser in 2019 to rethink Australia’s approach to suicide prevention.
3,046 Australians lost their lives to suicide in 2018.
“This is a national tragedy. Every life lost to suicide has a devastating impact on families, friends and communities. Every life lost affects our whole country,” Minister for Health Greg Hunt said.
Ms Morgan has consulted widely with individuals, families, communities, organisations and governments across the country, and has presented her initial findings to the Prime Minister.
According to the government, her initial advice outlines the need to use the knowledge of lived experience, to intervene early, focus on specific at-risk groups, strengthen families and communities, and ensure that all government services — not just health services — are working to reduce suicide.
“Christine’s initial advice will be made available shortly to canvass early findings with the sector and all interested stakeholders,” Minister Hunt said.
“I encourage all Australians interested in suicide prevention to engage with Christine and contribute to the interim report handed down in July. This will help guide the government’s longer-term response to suicide prevention.”
Beyond Blue chair Julia Gillard commended the Commonwealth’s early response to Ms Morgan’s first report.
“People who have previously attempted suicide are especially vulnerable to further attempts, so it’s vital we offer immediate, empathetic support after they’ve left hospital, ensuring that support reflects their realities and the environment in which they live,” Ms Gillard said.
Also sending their commendations, Australia’s peak body for psychologists, the Australian Psychological Society (APS), said that with this announcement the government has underlined its commitment to implementing a new approach to suicide prevention.
“The APS has been pleased to see Minister Hunt and Ms Morgan’s support for community-based projects. The APS supports the government’s efforts to improve suicide prevention services and address Australia’s mental health crisis,” said APS president Ros Knight.
The Way Back Support Service
Originally developed by Beyond Blue, The Way Back is delivered in partnership with Primary Health Networks, referring hospitals and local service providers.
Since its rollout in 2014, more than 3,600 people have been referred across nine Way Back sites around the Northern Territory, NSW, the ACT, Queensland and Victoria.
“Early research suggests The Way Back is making a difference to people during this critical time by sitting alongside them, guiding them towards the right support and empowering them to stay safe,” Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said.
“People who have used the service are telling us it’s helped to ease their distress, feel more connected and more in control of the major life issues that contributed to their suicide attempt.”
How will the money be distributed?
The government’s funding announcement comprises the following elements:
- $13.4 million in 2020–21 to extend the National Suicide Prevention Trial sites for a further year
- $10 million over two years from 2020–21 for an initial expansion of the StandBy Support After Suicide Service
- $7 million over two years from 2020–21 to expand The Way Back and other programs to increase the coverage of aftercare services in Australia
- $4.6 million in 2020–21 boost to investment in peer support for young people through organisations such as the Raise Foundation and ReachOut
- $4.4 million from 2020–21 for the headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation to deliver suicide prevention training and education sessions in schools through the Schools Suicide Prevention Activities Program
- $1.5 million to Lifeline Australia and $500,000 to Kids Helpline in 2019–20
- $1 million additional in 2019–20 for the NMHC to support ongoing reform in child and youth mental health