Out in the open - sui­cide

It’s World Sui­cide Preven­tion Day next week fol­lowed closely by RUOK Day. Berowra MP Ju­lian Leeser talks here about a cause close to his heart

Monthly Chronicle - - News -

Sui­cide is an is­sue that touches al­most all of us. It is one of the great chal­lenges fac­ing Aus­tralia - over 3,000 peo­ple died by sui­cide in 2015 - eight peo­ple a day and more than 100 peo­ple in the Berowra elec­torate alone in re­cent years.

This month, we mark World Sui­cide Preven­tion Day on Sun­day, 10 Septem­ber and RUOK Day on Thurs­day, 14 Septem­ber. It is also one year since I de­liv­ered my Maiden Speech in Par­lia­ment in which I re­counted the night of my fa­ther’s sui­cide 21 years ago.

Fol­low­ing my speech, I re­ceived thou­sands of emails, calls and let­ters from peo­ple across the elec­torate and around Aus­tralia shar­ing their sto­ries and ex­pe­ri­ences – of loved ones lost to sui­cide.

Since my speech, I’ve founded a par­lia­men­tary group to raise aware­ness among Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and Se­na­tors of the risk sui­cide poses to our com­mu­ni­ties and the ur­gency of tak­ing ac­tion. This group has gar­nered in­cred­i­ble sup­port from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum and the Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter for Health have both ex­pressed their strong per­sonal com­mit­ment to men­tal health and sui­cide preven­tion.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has been work­ing to com­bat the in­creas­ing rate of sui­cide in Aus­tralia. Dur­ing the election cam­paign last year, the Coali­tion an­nounced $192 mil­lion to­wards a Na­tional Sui­cide Preven­tion strat­egy. In the 2017 fed­eral bud­get, the Gov­ern­ment pledged more than $170 mil­lion for men­tal health sup­port, treat­ment and re­search and $58.6 mil­lion for vet­eran’s men­tal health and sui­cide preven­tion strategies.

Some­thing I’ve dis­cov­ered since be­gin­ning work in this space is the need for bet­ter com­mu­nity men­tal health ser­vices to keep peo­ple out of men­tal health units and to pro­vide them with sup­port and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion once they’re dis­charged from hos­pi­tal. When you break your leg, you go through treat­ment and re­hab to al­low you to fully re­cover from your in­jury - we need to treat men­tal ill­ness like we would any phys­i­cal in­jury.

I want to draw at­ten­tion to some of the ded­i­cated lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing to fos­ter bet­ter men­tal health and to pre­vent sui­cides.

*Life­line Har­bour to Hawkes­bury based in Gor­don serv­ing our com­mu­nity from North Syd­ney all the way up to Wise­man’s Ferry and the Hawkes­bury River, pro­vides cri­sis sup­port and sui­cide preven­tion ser­vices through a 24/7 phone helpline for those ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sui­ci­dal thoughts, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, lone­li­ness or per­sonal crises. If you or some­one you know is strug­gling with these thoughts, call Life­line on 13 11 14.

*Young peo­ple in our com­mu­nity are at an in­creased risk of sui­cide. KYDS Youth De­vel­op­ment Ser­vice is a lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­vid­ing free sup­port to young peo­ple deal­ing with a range of is­sues re­lated to poor men­tal health and sui­cide. They sup­port chil­dren and ado­les­cents across the Berowra elec­torate and North­ern Syd­ney through their cen­tres at Hornsby and Lind­field.

In 2015, sui­cide was the lead­ing cause of death among all peo­ple 15 to 44 years of age. Sta­tis­tics show men are three times more likely to take their own lives than women - those suf­fer­ing from the break­down of a mar­riage or re­la­tion­ship are par­tic­u­larly at risk.

I be­came in­volved with the or­gan­i­sa­tion Dads in Dis­tress when one of their mem­bers reached out af­ter hear­ing my maiden speech. Dads in Dis­tress hosts reg­u­lar night ses­sions al­low­ing lo­cal dads to ‘check in’ with each other, shar­ing their prob­lems and build­ing so­lu­tions based on the ex­pe­ri­ences of the mem­bers. I’m join­ing Dads in Dis­tress at their meet­ing in Hornsby later this month.

How­ever, older Aus­tralians are also at a higher risk of sui­cide, par­tic­u­larly older men. Groups like the men’s sheds in Hornsby, Ken­thurst and Cowan pro­vide mem­bers with a so­cial out­let that many lose when they re­tire from the per­ma­nent work­force. The strong com­mu­nity spirit at the men’s sheds helps those deal­ing with de­pres­sion, Parkin­son’s and de­men­tia, and fos­ters bet­ter men­tal health and re­silience for peo­ple fac­ing all kinds of per­sonal chal­lenges.

At ev­ery stage of life we need to teach peo­ple cop­ing strategies and the will­ing­ness to seek help for lone­li­ness, dis­ap­point­ment, fear, stress, chal­lenge, loss and anger. These things are a nor­mal part of life and hav­ing the right tools is the key to get­ting through them.

There’s no one-siz­e­fits-all so­lu­tion to sui­cide preven­tion, but I be­lieve we need to fo­cus on build­ing a stronger sense of com­mu­nity and cre­ate a cul­ture of re­silience to com­bat the on­go­ing is­sue of sui­cide in our so­ci­ety.

Ju­lian vis­it­ing the Hornsby Men’s Shed, which pro­vides men­tal health sup­port to its mem­bers

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