Thursday, April 01, 2010

Lack of support to blame for suicide deaths in Australia according to Professor Patrick McGorry, Australian of the Year

TONY EASTLEY: The Australian of the Year professor Patrick McGorry wants to see an immediate upgrade of mental health services to help arrest Australia's high rate of suicide.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics more than 2,000 lives were lost in 2008.

Ashley Hall reports.

ASHLEY HALL: It's only been a couple of months since the University of Melbourne's professor of youth mental health Patrick McGorry was named the Australian of the Year but in that time he's received hundreds of letters and emails describing what he calls the tragic and corrosive impact of suicide on individuals and families.

PATRICK MCGORRY: It puts you know the human story into these terrible figures.

ASHLEY HALL: About six people die from suicide in Australia every day.

PATRICK MCGORRY: The magnitude of it is staggering. It's a huge public health challenge for Australia.

ASHLEY HALL: Patrick McGorry says it's high time the nation paid attention to the problem.

PATRICK MCGORRY: We are not seeing a reduction because the main driver of suicide is unrecognised, untreated or poorly treated mental ill health.

ASHLEY HALL: He says what's needed is a scaling up of mental health resources because only about a third of people who need help are getting it.

CAROLINE AEBERSOLD: It is critical that we have the right funding and the right sort of programs supported to address such an enormous health issue in Australia.

ASHLEY HALL: Caroline Aebersold is the vice chairwoman of Suicide Prevention Australia. She says to get the right response requires an accurate assessment of the extent of the problem.

CAROLINE AEBERSOLD: There are differences in the way that police record data. There are differences in the way coroners in different coronial courts and different laws allow coroners to report on suicide.

It is a good thing that the ABS has been changing its processes so that we can get a more accurate picture but unfortunately it is only one tip of the iceberg of what the nature of the problem of underreporting of suicide is.

ASHLEY HALL: Laura Kennan is the general manager of clinical support for Crisis Support Services which runs telephone support services including SuicideLine and Mensline.

LAURA KENNAN: We certainly know that each day we take up to 100 calls from people at risk of suicide across our services.

And certainly there would be many more out there who are not accessing the help that they need because they don't know where to go for help or they are afraid of speaking out about suicide or they just don't have ability within themselves to seek that support.

ASHLEY HALL: Professor McGorry says the Federal Government's promised major announcement on mental health reform couldn't come soon enough.

PATRICK MCGORRY: No-one is suggesting we should go back to the old separate structures of mental hospitals. But what we need is a modern 21st century model of care which is very strong on the community side, linked to primary care and reducing the downstream pressures on our very beleaguered acute hospital system.

TONY EASTLEY: The University of Melbourne's professor of youth mental health Patrick McGorry ending Ashley Hall's report.

If you need support with personal problems you can call Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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