Community Affairs Reference Committee Report

April 6 2011

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins:

That this Council notes—

1. the Senate’s Community Affairs References Committee Report titled 'The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia';

2. that this Committee recommended a suicide prevention and awareness campaign for high risk groups, such as people in rural and remote areas;

3. that this Committee also recommended that additional “gatekeeper” suicide awareness and risk assessment training be directed to people living in regional, rural and remote areas;

4. that both the World Health Organisation and the International Association for Suicide Prevention have advocated a multi-faceted approach to suicide prevention, including recognising the important role that community based organisations can play in preventing suicide;


5. congratulates the Eyre Peninsula Local Government Association and the Eyre Peninsula Division of General Practice for seizing the initiative and providing funding to establish its own Community Response to Eliminating Suicide program on the Eyre Peninsula; and

6. urges the Rann Government to place greater emphasis on community based organisations such as the Community Response to Eliminating Suicide program and acknowledges their importance, particularly in preventing suicide in regional South Australia—

(Continued from 23 February 2011.)

Hidden_Speech The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (20:21): The Greens rise to support this motion this evening, put before us by the Hon. John Dawkins. We are particularly attracted to it as it highlights both the scourge of suicide in our regions and also the role that community and non-government organisations have to play in addressing this very serious issue. Members would be aware that suicide is, in fact, the leading cause of death for men and women under the age of 34 years.

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that non-heterosexual people (same-sex attracted people) particularly experience greater levels of anxiety and depression than their heterosexual peers and they are, indeed, at greater risk of suicide and self-harm. The Greens highlight that, particularly in rural areas, homosexual people suffer the stigma and discrimination that can lead to such high statistics, which should be of concern to us all and which show that, in fact, gay youth face extreme physical and verbal abuse, rejection and isolation from family and peers.

They often feel totally alone and socially withdrawn out of fear of adverse consequences. As a result of these pressures that they are more vulnerable than other youth to psychosocial problems including substance abuse, chronic depression, school failure, early relationship conflicts, being forced to leave their families and, of course, their towns, and having to survive on their own prematurely. Each of these problems, in fact, presents a risk factor for suicidal feelings and, indeed, suicide, particularly among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual youth.

I would like to highlight that part of the jigsaw puzzle that we should be very mindful of when looking at issues of suicide in our regions. I would hope that this committee will pay some heed to that. Having worked for a mental health organisation that represented non-government organisations, I am a firm advocate that mental health is an issue for all of us. We all have mental health and some of us will experience mental illness.

It is estimated that approximately one in five of us every year will have some sort of mental illness or an episode. Almost half of us in our lifetime will have some experience of it. There is no doubt, I think, that all of us will know of somebody (if not ourselves we will know somebody who is family, a friend or a loved one) who has had some sort of mental illness issues. It has been long held to be the Cinderella of health issues. Mental health has not been out in the open for a very long time.

We are only coming to terms with, in fact, the language and descriptions for mental illness and the understanding of mental illness, and getting rid of some of the stigma is a vital piece of the puzzle. As I say, the Greens will be supporting this committee. We commend the Hon. John Dawkins for putting it before us, and we look forward to the debate and, I understand, a proposed amendment from the government which we are happy to address when it comes up.


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