Secure, long-term funding for postvention services can save lives

New statistics shows the number of Australians who die by suicide has increased – which means more people bereaved by suicide are at heightened risk. This World Mental Health Week, we want to see secure, long-term funding for postvention services, writes Jesuit Social Services’ Media Relations Manager KATHRYN KERNOHAN.

Last month the Australian Bureau of Statistics published its latest Causes of Death data.

This annual report provides analysis on the country’s leading causes of death – and revealed that the number of people who died by suicide in Australia in 2017 rose by 9.1 per cent from 2016.

A total of 3,128 people died from intentional self-harm in 2017, resulting in it being the 13th leading cause of death overall, from 15th position the year prior.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 44, and the second leading cause of death for people aged 45 to 54.

Additionally, all states apart from Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia recorded an increase in suicides in 2017.

“We have seen some positive investments into mental health support at state and Federal level including Victoria’s 10-year mental health plan, although we are yet to see dedicated funding for people bereaved by suicide,” says Jesuit Social Services’ Support After Suicide Manager Louise Flynn.

“These figures outline what a major challenge we face as a society to tackle our mental health crisis.”

Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray said “unfortunately what these numbers show is that suicide is a growing public health concern for all Australians.

“As hopeless as these numbers seem, there is hope. There’s thousands of Australians working collaboratively together in Governments, in suicide prevention, in healthcare, in workplaces, in schools and in communities.”

It is also important to note that every person who suicides leaves behind a group of bereaved people such as family, friends and colleagues.

International research shows that those bereaved by suicide are more likely to take their own lives.

We have delivered Support After Suicide across Melbourne and regional Victoria since 2004. The programs provide a range of specialist services to people bereaved by suicide including counselling, support groups and online resources as well as age-specific programs for children and a Men’s Group.

The program has also engaged participants in a range of creative projects, including creative writing and recently co-produced a play based on the lived experiences of people bereaved by suicide called 2:20AM.

In 2016-17, Support After Suicide assisted 555 children, young people and adults bereaved by suicide.

However there is a lack of certainty from the Federal Government regarding ongoing funding for Support After Suicide.

Suicide rates are higher in rural and regional parts of Victoria compared to Melbourne, yet restricted funding means Support After Suicide cannot deliver robust services in areas such as Macedon Ranges and Geelong.

In our soon to be released submission to the 2018/19 Victorian State Budget, we call on the incoming Victorian Government to develop secure, long-term funding for postvention services such as Support After Suicide, which can ultimately reduce further suicides.

We also want to see expanded access to suicide bereavement services in rural and regional areas.

Ensuring all Victorians have access to effective services to help them navigate the grief and trauma associated with the suicide of a loved one is one way we can work towards reducing our suicide toll.