More than 480 people have called on the Mount Alexander Shire Council to recognise suicide as an issue of concern in its plan for the next four years.
A survey by a new suicide prevention group garnered almost 500 responses in four days.
Of the 493 respondents, 424 people strongly agreed that suicide was an issue of concern in the shire that required a proactive, whole-of-community response and called for suicide to addressed in the 2017-2021 Council Plan.
Sixty-four respondents said they agreed with the statement, while five respondents strongly disagreed.
Every Life Matters Network co-facilitator Sarah Day said 92 per cent of the respondents lived in the shire, while most others were residents of neighbouring shires who worked or spent time in Mount Alexander.
The Castlemaine-based network was formed in November in response to a need expressed by local services and community members.
“The momentum hasn’t really stopped since then,” Ms Day said.
Though the group is still in its early stages, members considered it important to contribute to the ongoing council plan consultation process.
While mental health is addressed in a number of the council’s documents, Ms Day said suicide was not clearly recognised.
“We felt, as a group, it was really important suicide be recognised as an area of concern in the community,” Ms Day said.
The ELM Network missed the opportunity to submit feedback during the first phase of consultation.
“However, we have taken the opportunity to gather community feedback to present to council during phase two,” Ms Day wrote to members of the local government.
“We hope suicide will be recognised as an issue of concern and added to the community feedback, in order to be incorporated into the draft council plan.”
More than 3000 people in Australia died by suicide in 2015.
The average annual rate of suicide in the Mount Alexander Shire is 20.4 per 100,000 people, compared with 9.7 as a state.
“In addition, the biggest concern raised by young people aged five – 25 years from the Mount Alexander Shire calling Kids Helpline is in relation to suicide,” Ms Day wrote.
Two of the group’s key aims are to raise awareness of the issue of suicide and to reduce stigma around suicide.
The shire has already received more than 350 submissions during its council plan consultation process.
Both the shire’s feedback survey and the ELM Network survey closed on April 2.
People will be able to comment on the council’s draft plan and its draft budget from April 19 to May 17.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
In an emergency, phone 000.