Summary of post-Budget mental health and suicide prevention sector briefings

Posted 13th May 2021 in General Sector update

The mental health and suicide prevention sector is examining the detail of the $2.3 billion commitment made in the Federal Budget 2021/22. The Life in Mind team attended the post-budget briefings held by the National Mental Health Commission and Suicide Prevention Australia and summarised the themes below.

Investment is welcomed, but we must spend it wisely

A resounding consensus from both briefing sessions was that the significant investment in mental health and suicide prevention was needed and is welcomed, but how the funding is spent is crucial. As the largest single Commonwealth package for the sector to date, it creates an opportunity for real reform and a more comprehensive approach to mental health and suicide prevention in Australia. This is the first phase of the Government's response to the Productivity Commission’s report and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser's Final Advice, indicating subsequent commitments in the future. 

Ms Christine Morgan, CEO, National Mental Health Commission

“The challenge for us all now is spending this well. If we can invest it well and integrate this well, we will be on the pathway to true reform of the system.”

Promising steps towards structural change

The $12.8 million commitment to establishing a National Suicide Prevention Office to oversee the whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention was a key point of discussion in both briefings. The sector has received this investment as an excellent foundational step in improving the systems and supports in suicide prevention and creating a structural change that will enable further investment.

Ms Nieves Murray, CEO, Suicide Prevention Australia

“An office will help address funding allocations, reduce duplication, support (the) even spread of services, enable continuity of care and most importantly increase accountability across all areas of government, not just health.”

Ms Christine Morgan, CEO, National Mental Health Commission

“The Budget creates a universal approach to suicide prevention, spearheaded by a National Suicide Prevention Office. It will enable suicide prevention care – coordinated with the States and Territories – to be delivered where people live.”

The role of lived experience

A clear message from the briefings was that to be effective, people who have first-hand experience of suicide and suicidal distress must be at the forefront of the design and delivery of the proposed investments in suicide prevention. Lived experience needs to be involved at every single level. 

Identified gaps 

While $107 million was allocated in the Budget to vulnerable communities – namely Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities – stakeholders noted that some groups were not explicitly named as receiving targeted funds in this budget. These included male suicide prevention, particular funding for LGBTIQ+ communities, suicide prevention in older Australians, and dedicated funding for lived experience.   

Other areas of discussion, with positive responses from the sector, included the increased investment in universal aftercare and postvention supports, critical investments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led approaches and clinical and peer workforce development. While some of the reforms announced may be contingent on a national agreement with states and territories, the overall response from the briefing sessions was an optimistic and hopeful one. 

Ms Christine Morgan, CEO, National Mental Health Commission

“Today’s Budget lays the foundations for the national mental health and suicide prevention reform that is required. It reflects a genuine commitment and presents the sector and government with an opportunity to take a unified approach to building a strongly coordinated mental health system.”

A snapshot of the suicide prevention package:

  • 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.