White Wreath is profoundly disappointed at the failure by Health Minister Greg Hunt to introduce meaningful programs to address Australia’s major health problem – our rising suicide rate.

Instead of allocating funds to urgently needed mental health hospital facilities, he has chosen to concentrate on education and training resources.

In just two major announcements, he splurged a total of $120 million on such programs; $73 million on programs to ensure Australian children and young people receive the support they need during their school years; and $47 million on training and a series of communication programs.

While not doubting, Mr Hunt’s sincerity in adopting these programs, he has failed to face the fact that adequate hospital treatment has been degrading or ignored over the past few decades.

Purely and simply the cause of our high suicide rate is because of the closure of our mental health system. Medium to long- term stays no longer exist. People are routinely denied hospital stays even after an attempted suicide. In many cases they are lucky to be admitted for an overnight stay.

We remind Mr Hunt of the impassioned plea by his fellow parliamentarian, Julian Lesser, on the failure of the policy of continually throwing  money at the mental health crisis.

He also needs to revisit the findings last year of the National Mental Health Commission’s review of mental health programs and services..

One of the Commission’s findings was: “Despite almost $10 billion in Commonwealth spending on mental health every year, there are no agreed or consistent national measures of whether this is leading to effective outcomes or whether peoples lives are being improved as a result.”

Suicide rates have reached a crisis point. More people are taking their lives now than they have over the past 15 years. In 2015, 3027 Australians died by suicide. It is now the leading cause of deaths between the ages of 15 and 44, with men being three times more likely than women to take their lives.

Education and training programs have not proved effective in reducing the suicide toll.

As well meaning as Mr Hunt, no doubt is, he is surrounded by advisers who are clinging to failed ideas, which are attract widespread media approval, but are not achieving anything.

We urge Mr Hunt to concentrate on providing sufficient funding for mental health treatment facilities.

Suicide is a life-threatening condition and is the only illness in society where people are routinely refused hospital admission.

We urge the Federal Government to make mental health its number one priority and appoint a   special mental health ministry.


Fanita Clark