Leaders ask government, community for national plan to reduce suicide rate

Calls for a national plan to reduce the number of people taking their own life have been backed by central Victoria’s leading voices for suicide prevention.

Participants in Sunday’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness Network remembrance walk were urged by Lifeline chief executive officer Pete Shmigel to lobby their federal MP for a national plan.  

Despite Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull advocating for a national strategy during last year’s election campaign, Australia is still not among the 28 countries the World Health Organisation lists as having a plan in place.  

“It's so worrying, but we don't quite talk about it (suicide) enough, we don't do enough,” Mr Shmigel said.

“It's out there, it's real, it's painful.” 

About 3000 Australians took their own lives in 2015, meaning an average of more than eight suicides every day.

Eighty-five per cent of Australians have been personally affected by suicide. 

HALT co-founder Jeremy Forbes said he was struck by the power of a national plan upon visiting the United Kingdom where suicide prevention groups met to identify goals and challenges. 

“There’s a lot of suicide prevention efforts doing some incredible stuff across the state or across Australia, but we’re not talking to each other,” Mr Forbes said.

While governments could commit to more funding, the campaigner believed a national prevention plan would require grass roots action, like his organisation’s breakfasts for tradespeople initiative.   

SPAN vice-president Alannah McGregor said she was surprised Australia had not followed the lead of other countries in adopting a national suicide prevention plan. 

“It would be a good set of guidelines for all the local places, like SPAN, somewhere we can look for guidance on whether we are going in the right direction,” Ms McGregor said.

“You don't want to be saying the wrong things.” 

Ms McGregor also said a national strategy would commit successive governments to providing more easily accessible services for people in need. 

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636. 

In an emergency, dial 000.