Twenty-six years ago today my father took his own life. This is a subject I spoke about in my maiden speech in order to encourage more Australians to notice the signs that people around them might be giving and understand what to do if they are contemplating suicide.
This Saturday is World Suicide Prevention Day. There are on average nine deaths by suicide every day. Seventy-five per cent are men, but women are more likely to attempt suicide. We also know that suicide is the leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians, with the suicide rate double that of the non-Indigenous population. For every death by suicide, 135 additional people are impacted. They, like me, are the loved ones left behind. They struggle to rebuild their lives in the wake of that loss. In 2020 alone it’s estimated that more than 423,000 Australians felt the complex impact of suicide.
I want to acknowledge some of the organisations doing real work to prevent suicide in our community. Yesterday, the Parliamentary Friends of Suicide Prevention, of which I am co-chair, hosted the annual suicide prevention breakfast, which was attended by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, along with the national peak body, Suicide Prevention Australia. I want to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of their CEO, Nieves Murray.
Tomorrow, 8 September, is RU OK? day. RU OK? encourages people to start a conversation that might change a life. I want to acknowledge Katherine Newton, their CEO, for the work that she has done in the organisation, particularly the terrific Signs campaign they ran a few years ago, inspired by my maiden speech, to encourage people to notice the people around them and, when they see changes in behaviour, ask the direct question, ‘Are you contemplating suicide?’
Suicide’s also the leading cause of death for people aged under 44. Since 1985, Youth Insearch, led by Stephen Lewin, has helped over 32,000 young people to rebuild their lives. I want young people to know that they can always reach out for help.
Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury first opened its doors in 1967. Since then, this volunteer led organisation has provided personal counselling, telephone and suicide crisis support to our community. After 12 years of tireless work, the extraordinary Lifeline H2H CEO, Wendy Carver, retired in July. I want to thank her for her outstanding contribution to our community, delivering crisis services to our community with her unique combination of outstanding strategic leadership and great personal warmth. And I want to wish her, Malcolm and the family all the best for the future, and to welcome Elizabeth Lovell, who’s stepping into the CEO role.
I also want to acknowledge Parents Beyond Breakup, which supports parents going through the very difficult family law system with programs Dads in Distress, Mums in Distress and Grandparents in Distress, and acknowledge the work of their CEO, Gill Hunt. And finally, I want to acknowledge Mentoring Men and its founder, Ian Westmoreland, who set up his organisation in response to an event I held for leaders in our community, where I challenged them to do what they could to help prevent suicide. Mentoring Men provides free, long-term, one-on-one life mentoring for men experiencing challenges or changes in their life.
Let me thank all these organisations for the outstanding life-saving work they do.JU