“There is a unrelenting commitment from everyone involved to look at the issue of suicide – which is at an unacceptable rate in the country – and work together to consider what a co-ordinated approach to suicide prevention might look like.”
She said the government, with bipartisan support, was undertaking “unprecedented action” to reduce the rate of suicide, particularly among young people and Indigenous Australians.
The fact there were more than 3000 recorded suicides in 2018 – about eight a day and part of an upward trend over the past decade – was “a national tragedy”, she said.
“Lessening people’s distress” – either with their housing situation, employment, food or financial security – would be a key element in driving down the rate of suicide.
“Whilst we are never going to be certain and we can’t predict who is going to attempt to take their own lives, we know many have never interacted with the mental health system,” she said. “There are many facets – from communities looking out for each other, to making sure we get to the people who need help, support the services available and early intervention for vulnerable people.”
Mr Hunt said the forum would “seek and test” the best ideas from around Australia and the world and provide valuable insights that would help form the government’s response.
He said it had already emerged during the process that a critical group to support was those who had attempted suicide and been discharged from hospital within the previous six months.
“Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy. It creates a ripple effect that flows through families, friendship groups, schools, workplaces and communities,” Mr Hunt said.
He said Towards Zero was a “total commitment” to the value of each and every life and recognised the equity of all lives, in all ages and all groups.
“By working together, we can ensure all Australians know they are not alone, that they matter and that help is available.”
If you are experiencing personal difficulties, please contact Beyondblue, 1300 224 636; Lifeline, 13 11 14; Headspace (for those aged 12-25), 1800 650 890; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.
Rob Harris is the National Affairs Editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra