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World Suicide Prevention Day [virtual event]


Good morning, everyone.

Thank you for the invitation to be part of this World Suicide Prevention Day webinar.

World Suicide Prevention Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness in our community and amongst policy makers of a risk to our national wellbeing and to challenge us to show how we can work together to reduce its impact. 

I trust that in addition to discussing the current situation regarding causes, responses and resources, this webinar and the work that flows from it will also act as an opportunity to create hope. 

I want to thank all at Suicide Prevention Australia for organising today’s webinar and for the critically important work you do to prevent the incidence of suicide.

Almost 10 million Australians know someone who has been impacted by suicide.

Statistics give us the big picture, but in the case of suicide it’s worth focusing on what those numbers represent.

With any incidence of suicide, there is an individual, family or community left behind. And each suicide is an individual driven to a place of darkness and despair – left to feel alone and without an alternative; without hope.
Each suicide is a tragedy.

It is why your work is so critical. Perhaps now more than ever.

Linda and I meet regularly – virtual meetings at the moment – with members of the mental health sector. From Lifeline, Beyond Blue, Black Dog, to Headspace and more, we’ve been speaking to the people on the front line. These meetings give us an insight into what is happening on the ground in relation to the mental health of our communities.

You would not be surprised that our observations align with the findings of SPA’s ‘State of the Nation in Suicide Prevention’ Report released today.

The three key risks to suicide are reported as employment, social isolation, and breakdowns of relationships. These risks are not new to those involved in this sector. There can be no doubt, however, that these risks have been increased by the compounding effect of repeated lockdowns over a prolonged period in several States.

In addition, many communities have had to endure one or more of a number of natural disasters over the past two years - drought, flood, fire, cyclone and storms, and a mouse plague.

While there is no easy solution to the challenges that such pressures place on our nation, this webinar is a timely opportunity to discuss and develop the policy responses necessary to stem and prevent a rise in the number of suicides that might result.

The SPA’s report includes data on the number of vulnerable communities and groups supported by the suicide prevention sector. It also states that the sector works in a highly collaborative manner. I ask that you ensure that this behaviour continues. We cannot afford to have centres of excellence that are in competition or working in silos. I urge you to ensure that you speak with one, consistent voice as you take your policy responses to the relevant decision makers.

Might I take this opportunity to ask Suicide Prevention Australia to consider adding a new community to its list of supported communities, that being veterans living with a mental illness. The risk to this community is such that I believe it warrants specific attention in your considerations.

Acknowledging the seriousness of the issue being considered today, I think that it is important that I state that I am optimistic about Australia’s future. We are a good people and a strong people. I have seen that goodness and an accompanying resolute nature in the people engaged in the mental health and, specifically, suicide prevention sectors. It gives me confidence that you will take the steps necessary to help as many Australians who find themselves in difficult circumstances as you can.

I want to commend all at Suicide Prevention Australia, and those of you participating and watching online who work in the suicide prevention and mental health sector, for the critically important work you do.

The vision of Suicide Prevention Australia, ‘A world without suicide’, is ambitious – I accept that; nonetheless it is the most worthy of ambitions.

Thank you.

[Awards component of webinar]

Today is also an opportunity to recognise the outstanding efforts of those who work in the sector.

Which brings me to the Awards component of this webinar.

As Patron of Suicide Prevention Australia, I am delighted to be able to announce the recipients of the 2021 National LiFE Awards.

The awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding work being done across our communities to support people in distress and reduce the number of lives lost to suicide.

There are three categories: Innovation, Impact and Leadership.

The 2021 LiFE Award Recipient in the Innovation Category is … Associate Professor Jo Robinson.

The 2021 LiFE Award Recipient in the Impact Category is … Associate Professor Maree Toombs.

The 2021 LiFE Award Recipient in the Leadership Category is … Mr Alan Woodward.

Congratulations to Jo, Maree and Alan.

I’ll now hand back to Nieves Murray [CEO, Suicide Prevention Australia] for some closing remarks.