Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:45): I rise to speak about an issue that is quite concerning, particularly in the regions, and a conversation that South Australians at large have—that is, the impact of mental health and the ongoing pressures it has on day-to-day life, particularly with the impacts through adversity—whether it is in day-to-day life, enduring the social aspects, the pressures in life or some of the social pressures on people.
In the regions, we see particular pressure on the primary sector due to isolation issues and commodity pressures—the downward pressure on commodity prices—that places ongoing pressure on family life and the family unit. Over recent times, particularly in my shadow portfolio involving mental health, suicide prevention and substance abuse, the sad reality is that we are seeing nine suicides on a day-to-day basis. Seven of those suicides are men. Recently, particularly in my home electorate of Chaffey, we have seen that the number of impacted families in the primary production sector is growing.
I want to pay tribute to Dr Kate Gunn, who initiated the Vocal Locals program. It is a great initiative that has been rolled out as a trial in the Riverland. We had 10 ambassadors to speak up, to ask people, and I guess it reflects what is coming up with R U OK? Day. The Vocal Locals program was the brainchild of Dr Kate Gunn through the University of South Australia. Its 10 ambassadors have been trained and given an understanding of the issues, and they have also been out and about in communities, spreading the word that it is okay to speak about some of those personal issues that you have, the mental pressure that you experience and suicidal tendencies.
Last week, in the Riverland we had a graduation for those 10 Vocal Local advocates to demonstrate the work they are doing in their local community and the conversations they are having. They have received a level of training from Tanya Lehmann, a local health professional who has done an outstanding job in giving those ambassadors an understanding and a level of concept of knowing when people are under pressure, knowing when any of their constituents, their friends, their community people are doing it tough.
The Vocal Local initiative has been spread far and wide. Social media was used as a conduit to give people an understanding that it is okay to speak up, that it is okay to speak to your friends and family, that it is okay to speak to those ambassadors as Vocal Locals to express your concerns, your health issues or your level of mental health anxiety. What we have seen through that program is that we have spread the message far and wide.
The program has been a runaway success, and I want to thank Kate Gunn and the 10 advocates, who have also been outstanding role models in this program. We celebrated the program at Salena Estate last week. It was a coming together of the success stories that were told around the dinner table. Some of those stories have been quite sobering, that people have been out there giving the opportunity for those who are suffering with mental health, with anxiety, and even with suicidal tendencies.
What it has shown me, what it has shown the advocates and what it has shown the trial program is that this trial should be repeated and it should be rolled out right around South Australia, not just in the regions. I think there is an opportunity; we should celebrate the opportunity to ask our friends and family, 'Is it okay?' I will have more to say about that later in this sitting week. It is a monumentally important issue that we all need to have more understanding and acceptance of.