Update from the National Suicide Prevention Adviser

Posted 18th May 2020 in Updates from the Prime Minister's National Suicide Prevention Adviser

Australia is experiencing an unprecedented pandemic with associated financial downturn, unemployment and a rapid change to community life. We know this is contributing to significant pressures on people across Australia.

There is opportunity to collaborate and do more across health, other social policy portfolios and across the community to address the impacts of COVID-19 on our wellbeing, including the potential impacts on suicidal behaviour. Global experiences from past viral epidemics and economic downturns clearly demonstrate that early and sustained action is critical.

On Friday, the National Cabinet unanimously adopted the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan, with $48.1 million allocated to implement immediate actions.

Led by the National Mental Health Commission in collaboration with all jurisdictions and in consultation with stakeholders across the sector, this plan provides a roadmap for addressing mental health and wellbeing needs across the population.

There are three immediate areas of focus within the plan:

  • data and modelling: Immediate monitoring and modelling of the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and suicidal behaviour
  • outreach: ensuring we are reaching our most vulnerable communities 
  • connectivity: making sure people know how to get support and to make it easier to access the services they need, when they need them.

Suicide Prevention is outlined as one of ten priority areas within the plan, with suicide prevention positioned as a shared responsibility across multiple portfolios at all levels of government. 

From a health perspective, there is an opportunity to bringing forward some of the agreed actions under the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan to provide an anchor point for Commonwealth, State and Territory, and regional suicide prevention efforts. 

But we know many people who die by suicide, and many who may be facing additional pressure as a result of COVID-19, have not been in recent contact with our mental health system, so we also need to progress whole of government and cross-portfolio approaches to address key risk factors and to provide early and proactive support. 

All of this work needs to be informed by best available evidence and co-designed with people who have expertise through lived experience. 

Thank you to everyone involved in developing the Plan and our broader working in suicide prevention. As National Suicide Prevention Adviser I am grateful for the ongoing advice from members of the Expert Advisory Group and from a range of other stakeholders and services and I look forward to working with you all over the coming weeks and months.

More information on the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan is available here.