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Federal Government investment into suicide prevention and earlier intervention is a welcome first step towards a more comprehensive approach

Everymind has welcomed the $2.3 billion commitment to mental health and suicide prevention in the 2021/22 Federal Budget, with its emphasis on increasing supports where people live, work and learn, and a strong boost to suicide prevention.

The Federal Government has described the package as its first step in responding to the Final Advice from the National Suicide Prevention Adviser, with commitments to progress a whole of government approach that responds proactively and early to distress.

Everymind Director Dr Jaelea Skehan OAM said the Budget provided some important groundwork for progressing the comprehensive, whole-of-governments reforms needed in suicide prevention.

“These are promising steps towards structural change in suicide prevention and investments in community-based and early responses to suicidal distress,” Dr Skehan said.

“To be effective, we need all jurisdictions and portfolios working together with the National Suicide Prevention Office, the suicide prevention sector and with people who have first-hand experience of suicide and suicidal distress.”

Included in the $298.1 million package is:

  • The establishment of a National Suicide Prevention Office ($12.8 million)
  • $158.6 million to work with the States and Territories to ensure that ‘aftercare’ supports are provided to people following a suicide attempt
  • Additional funds to support those impacted and bereaved by suicide ($22 million)
  • $31.2 million to establish a national early distress intervention trial and develop national standards for safe space services
  • Further funding to expand the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program, to support a range of whole-of-population activities and services
  • $12 million to maintain support for the 12 National Suicide Prevention Trial sites
  • $79 million to implement key initiatives under a new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.

“It is pleasing to see a focus on responding much earlier than we have been, scaling up aftercare and postvention supports and critical investments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led approaches,” Dr Skehan said.

“We wait to see how these measures will be put into action, and if future budgets will deliver further funding needed to build the more compassionate and coordinated approach required for suicide prevention in Australia.

“This should, however, signal an opportunity for collaborative efforts and for increased investments and partnerships with other jurisdictions, the business sector and philanthropy.”

In response to the Productivity Commission’s report on mental health, there were also significant investments in prevention and early intervention, new service models and workforce investments.

This included investments in digital mental health services, access to legal support for people at risk of and living with mental health conditions, investments in perinatal mental health, the expansion of Headspace and the Adult Mental Health Hubs as well as establishment of a new network of child mental health and wellbeing hubs.

Dr Skehan acknowledged the range of investments for mental health, including some focus on earlier intervention and taking supports to the communities where people live, learn and work.

“It is promising to see a focus on integrated and high quality digital supports for the community and investments in parents and children as part of the budget package.

“There is an opportunity in future budgets to ensure that our prevention approach looks at reducing the drivers of mental ill-health and distress – including further engagement with services such as financial counsellors, employment services, children’s services and broader approaches that support families and caregivers.”

“There are great opportunities, through partnership, to extend the current focus on responding earlier in life and earlier in illness to a truly preventative approach.”

Everymind also welcomed a $900,000 Budget commitment to allow its Ahead for Business digital hub to continue supporting small business owners to look after their mental wellbeing, and the mental health of their employees.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and often the heart of communities,” Dr Skehan said.

“We need to ensure that mental health supports for sole operators and small business are designed with their specific needs in mind. We look forward to leveraging this funding and listening to what small business owners need.”

If you are experiencing distress and need help, please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Published: 12 May 2021