Politics — 21 June 2016

Bill Shorten has set a target of halving suicide rates over the next 10 years, after announcing the Labor government would invest $81 million for mental health stigma and suicide prevention.

At Labor’s official campaign launch in Western Sydney on Sunday, the Opposition Leader said it “will not rest” until mental health “gets the continuous national attention and national action that it deserves”.

He announced Labor will commit $72 million to funding 12 regional suicide prevention pilot programs and 95 headspace centres across Australia, along with an additional $9 million dedicated to national research.

The plan is aligned with the Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) 2016 Election Manifesto and the National Mental Health Commission Review recommendations.

Currently, seven Australians die as a result of suicide every day.

SPA CEO Sue Murray followed up the announcement, calling the mental health issue a “national emergency.”

“With suicide taking the lives of more than double the number of Australians dying on our roads. We are pleased to see the amount pledged today is almost double existing funds for this national emergency.”

“Whichever party comes into office next month they must play their part in reducing suicides by half in ten years.

“We must all do everything we can to support Australians to live.”

However, the Liberal government has committed to make little reform, let alone double its pledge.

The party has made a public commitment to Headspace centres that it would receive the same level of support in the future.

The Liberal plan states that the Turnbull Government is delivering significant reforms” and “will put the individual needs of patients at the centre of our mental health system.”

The reforms are said to deliver a flexible model of care for mental health services, rather than the current “one-size-fits-all” approach.

The Greens have already said the party would fund a $40 million anti-stigma strategy and $38.3 million for a National Suicide Campaign to “engage and educate communities about the complexity of suicide.”

This article first appeared on ‘The New Daily’ on 20 June 2016.

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