HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.30 pm]: I rise only because I want to make some brief comments in response to the answer to one of the questions I asked today in question time. I asked a question of the Minister for Health via the parliamentary secretary about the emerging incidence of suicide amongst older Australians. I wanted to know what the Mental Health Commission was doing to address this disturbing trend in this particular population. I received a comprehensive answer that went over much of what is happening generally within the suicide prevention space. But when it came to answering the specific concern I raised about targeting suicide of older Australians, I was advised that the Mental Health Commission has engaged with Mental First Aid Australia regarding the recent launch of a 12-hour older-person mental health first aid course and that on 17 May 2018—next week—Mental Health First Aid Australia will be making a presentation to the suicide prevention coordinators about the new program.

I happen to think that the state suicide strategy as it was developed under the previous government is a good one. I would think that because I was a member of the Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention, so I know the amount of work that went into developing that strategy. I note also that significant investment was made by the previous government in dealing with the issue of suicide prevention, and that has been carried on by this current government. The issue of suicide prevention has, fortunately, received a significant amount of increased attention, particularly over the last decade. This and what we have seen in the state is that successive governments have been prepared to put their money where their mouth is. I want to acknowledge that.

I also acknowledge that when that previous strategy was being developed, the issue of suicide among older Australians was not as obvious as it has become since that strategy was developed. Since then, it has become clear that there is a really disturbing trend with increased rates of suicide of older Australians. I would understand if the Mental Health Commission is being careful about sticking to a very well developed strategy and wanting to make sure that it is keeping on track. However, I also recognise that one of the things we have to always be aware of is the nature of trends around the issue of suicide. Older-adult suicide is a particular concern that as someone who is very passionate about the area of suicide prevention, I have become increasingly disturbed about. We know that data coming through shows a direct correlation between older Australians who are making a decision to take their lives, and issues of loneliness and isolation. I find that to be absolutely devastating and a heartbreaking indictment of where we are as a community and how we treat older people.

I also have heard anecdotal evidence of the correlation between increased risk around elder abuse and the subsequent desire of older Australians to take their lives, perhaps because they are feeling pressure from their families or because they are subject to abuse and feeling as though their lives no longer have any purpose. Whatever the reason, it is an area that we are clearly going to have to pay more attention to. I suspect that the next suicide prevention strategy will have to pay attention to the issue of older adult suicide because the trend is so disturbing and there is no way that we can ignore what is happening with this particular population. I wanted to at least respond to the question that had been put because it was a very long and comprehensive answer. When it came down to answering the specifics about the question I had asked, it took up only three lines. Members can feel 100 per cent confident that I will be raising this issue again in this chamber because I want to make sure that it is very firmly on the agenda for members. It is important that I at least had the opportunity to respond to the question that was put today. Like I said, a lot of information was given, but there was nothing that I did not already know. We will have to pay some very close attention to addressing this particular population group and this area of suicide prevention.


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