Give us the tools to halve suicide rates

URGENT NEED: Black Dog Institute board chairman Peter Joseph has pleaded with Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley (pictured) to give them the tools to lower suicide rates.Nearly 10 years ago, in June 2006, I lost my best mate, our son, Michael. He was only 30 years old. We lost him to the most common cause of death in young Australians, age 15 to 44. Not cancer, heart disease, nor a car accident. Michael took his own life following a long intermittent battle with depression.
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Every year, more than 2500 Australian families have to experience the enormous grief of losing someone to suicide. It is greater than the road toll and the figure changes little year after year. It is believed at least 60,000 others make an attempt on their life – a conservative estimate as no formal data is collected. We have halved the road toll over 20 years with clever mitigation strategies. We believe we can halve the suicide rate in only four years using systemic, evidence-based strategies.

We know mental illness is a factor more than 80 per cent of the time, but why does suicide happen? How do people with the world at their feet feel that life isn’t worth living?

These are questions that researchers, clinicians and mental health advocates are addressing every day, but what drives a person to suicide is extremely complex. We have only been able to adequately explore the living brain for about 15 years, since the genome project and decent functional magnetic resonance imaging. We have learnt more about the brain in the last 30 years than in all of human history. Answers will eventually be found and they will change everything. United States President Barack Obama said two years ago when he launched The Brain Initiative: “Here we are doing wonderful things exploring outer space. We have never explored inner space and now need to do so.”

However, there is a way we can reduce the suicide rate almost instantaneously.Earlier this month, at a National Suicide Prevention Summit in Parliament House, participants unanimously supported implementing a “systems-based” approach to suicide preventionwith the simultaneous implementation of strategies based on solid scientific evidence.

In any given geographic location (we have the technology to identify the hotspots) it involves a collaborative effort between hospitals, primary and community care, emergency services, NGOs and local business to support and treat those at risk. It removes the silos and empowers those who work in the sector to do their job so much more effectively.

We now know what to do and where to start. Despite the extraordinary community burden of suicide, funding and co-ordination is woeful. Without investment in proper national trials of this new approach, we simply sit and wait while more and more people take their lives. It has to change.

As someone who has lost a loved one, I can’t sit by while I know we have an effective solution at hand. Thursday, September 10, wasWorld Suicide Prevention Day and I urge you tohave the conversation with your family and friends and contact your local member to let them know how important this is to all of us. We must break the taboos and shine a light on an uncomfortable reality. I know I will be doing my best to ensure the loss of our Michael leads to a better life for others.

My urgent plea to Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley is, in the words of Winston Churchill: “Give us the tools and we will do the job.”

– Peter Joseph chairs the Black Dog Institute Board.(Lifeline: 13 11 14,Beyondblue: 1300 224 636,Mens Line: 1300 789 978,Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800)This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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