In July 2019, the Prime Minister announced that the Australian Government is working towards zero suicides and appointed Ms Christine Morgan as the first National Suicide Prevention Adviser reporting directly to the Prime Minister.
Towards zero means we have a total commitment to respecting the life of every Australian. For that reason, Ms Morgan will work with relevant Ministers to drive a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention activities as set out in her Terms of Reference.
PDF version: Terms of Reference (PDF 145 KB)
Word version: Terms of Reference (Word 31 KB)
The National Suicide Prevention Adviser works to:
- reduce the risk that people will experience the kind of despair that leads to suicide. This means keeping people healthy, connected to their communities and addressing the social reasons for suicide
- ensure that people who find themselves in despair get immediate and effective support
- identify ways to connect services and empower communities to recognise and respond to people in distress and help to instil hope
Initial advice and early findings – November 2019
The National Suicide Prevention Adviser has provided the Prime Minister with initial findings and some emerging advice to inform and complement the Government’s Towards Zero initiatives. The initial advice outlines the need for a fundamental shift to a broader approach which places the needs of people at the centre of all strategies and initiatives.
Published below is a communique from Ms Morgan that summarises early findings and next steps. Also published is the initial advice and a report detailing the key themes and early findings to support the advice. These documents are being released to canvas feedback from all interested stakeholders to inform the interim and final reports due in July and December 2020.
An online survey will shortly be available for anyone who may wish to provide feedback at this early stage.
National Suicide Prevention Taskforce
The National Suicide Prevention Taskforce supports the National Suicide Prevention Adviser.
The Taskforce is led by Ms Jaelea Skehan, who brings extensive experience in suicide prevention research, policy and practice.
Members of the Taskforce engage with government agencies (Commonwealth and state and territory) as well as those in the suicide prevention sector and other networks.
Along with direct consultations with community members and organisations, a cross-government committee and Expert Advisory Group are providing advice and support to Ms Morgan.
The Expert Advisory Group held its inaugural meeting on Monday 14 October.
PDF version: EAG Communique 14 October 2019 (PDF 335 KB)
Word version: EAG Communique 14 October 2019 (Word 25 KB)
Towards Zero Suicide Prevention Forum
On 13 November the Towards Zero Suicide Prevention Forum: Opportunities for a Coordinated Response was held in Canberra. With over 100 attendees the Forum provided another opportunity for Ms Morgan to hear from community members and organisations.
PDF version: Towards Zero Suicide Prevention Forum Communique (PDF 302 KB)
Word version: Towards Zero Suicide Prevention Forum Communique (Word 1151 KB)
Participants at the Towards Zero Suicide Prevention Forum: Opportunities for a Coordinated Response
To contact the Adviser or the Taskforce, email SP.Taskforce@health.gov.au
A message from the National Suicide Prevention Adviser
Stating that suicide prevention is every body’s business is easy to say
This week marks World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK? Day. Now more than ever it is important that we work together, across each community and across the whole-of-government, to prevent the distress and impacts that come with suicide
With more than 3,000 people dying by suicide and a conservative estimate of 65,000 suicide attempts each year, the impacts are far reaching. Research tells us that more than 100 people are exposed to each death by suicide.
That’s hundreds of thousands of Australians impacted each and every year. Over the past three months I have been visiting communities across Australia and have heard about what is working and what our communities believe needs to change. I have also heard about the sadness and grief experienced by those who have lost a loved one to suicide and the frustration of those who are trying to navigate the current system of support.
Like many colleagues and community members who have worked tirelessly to communicate the importance of suicide prevention, I was pleased to see this issue elevated to the highest office in Australia recently, and privileged to be given the role of advising our Prime Minister. But, the promise of this appointment and the opportunity it brings should not be taken lightly, by me or anyone else who has dedicated their energy, knowledge, skills and lived expertise to this area
In my view, there is a real opportunity for us to come together on this issue but we must think more broadly than we have been. While it is easy to say that suicide prevention is every body’s business, it is harder to really achieve the kind of cross-government, cross-jurisdiction and whole-of-community response that is required. While our health services, community organisations and funded suicide prevention programs certainly have a critical role to play, we must consider the broad range of issues impacting on people’s lives and consider all of the touchpoints where we have an opportunity to make a positive difference.
We need to review our current approach and ensure that those who find themselves in despair get immediate and effective support – regardless of whether they are connected to health services or not. But we also need to actively seek to understand and reduce the factors that contribute to despair and suicidal thoughts. This means looking towards the social determinants of suicide, and effective policy shifts as well as interventions that can reduce their impacts. Recent research by the ABS showed that while many people who die by suicide experience mental illness, other health and psychosocial risk factors are also important. Things like past history of self-harm, alcohol and other drug problems, relationship issues, legal issues, unemployment, homelessness, disability, bullying, loss of a loved one and impacts of chronic health conditions.
It’s critical governments, services and the broader community come together to ensure an inclusive and proactive response to suicide. This is a big issue that requires a big response. Over the next fifteen months I will be working with government Ministers and departments, community leaders and those with diverse expertise to formulate advice to improve the co-ordination and delivery of a whole-of-government response to suicide and its impacts. I hope to engage with as many of you as possible over the next 15 months as we formulate that advice.
If you would like to make contact with Christine Morgan, contact the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce on SP.Taskforce@health.gov.au