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Speech: Suicide Prevention Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:24): I rise to support this bill, which seeks to reduce the incidence of suicide in our state and promote best practice suicide prevention in our policies across this state. It is a momentous bill, and I congratulate you, Mr President, for your role in the important work in this area.

This bill will ensure that there will be a suicide prevention council, consisting of an MP who is not a minister, the Chief Public Health Officer, the Chief Psychiatrist, the Chief Executive of Wellbeing SA, the Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement, the Commissioner for Children and Young People, the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, and a mental health commissioner appointed by the minister, as well as up to 13 members with knowledge, skills and lived experience.

Suicide touches far too many families and individuals in our state, and this is a wonderful way forward—a proactive measure that we can take to increase and support those who are either at risk or have been harmed and bereaved. Mr President, you have done much work in this area and you know that in my personal life I, like many in this state and across this nation, have been touched by suicide. It is a scourge, it is something that is not inevitable and it is certainly something that is quite preventable.

The first step of course is to talk about suicide. Only decades ago people covered up suicide deaths, they were not reported on, they were not talked about, they were discussed as a source of shame. They should not be seen in that way, and certainly I hope that measures such as this piece of legislation that we have, which is quite groundbreaking, will go to not just removing that stigma and shame but to ending the number of suicides we see.

The bill honours that lived experience, and I very much welcome the thoughtful choice of the involvement of those with that lived experience, including multicultural persons, veterans and Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, as well as the LGBTIQ+ community. We know that some in our community are more likely to die by suicide than others. We know there are supports out there, but we also know that people do not realise that when they are in those dark places and when they have those particular mental health pressures and needs.

Given this pandemic, I have often said that the earthquake and the tsunami to come is that of mental health issues, and that was certainly the evidence of those working in SA Health to the COVID oversight committee just last week. We have a tsunami of mental health crises ahead of us beyond this pandemic. This pandemic has been hard enough, and these measures, I commend the government and you, Mr President, for this essential work. It is work that is cross-party and bipartisan supported, it is work that is well overdue and it is work that is much welcomed by the Greens. We look forward to the passage of this legislation.

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