Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (15:33): I rise today to speak about a very important day, World Suicide Prevention Day, on 10 September, and 9 September is R U OK? Day, which is another great initiative for mental health and suicide prevention. I would like to speak today about some statistics and give an understanding of the impacts that mental health and suicide have on the global population and, more importantly, what that means to us in South Australia.
Suicide Prevention Day is observed in over 60 countries. It is about reducing the stigma surrounding suicide and the impacts of mental health. We know that governments continue to look at suicide policies and promote mental health policy. Sadly, in Australia 65,000 people a year attempt suicide. Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide on Suicide Prevention Day and every day. As a state and as community leaders, we need to be out there to better understand the impact on communities and families that suicide and mental health is having. Mental health and suicide prevention start at a grassroots level, and we need to acknowledge the impact mental health issues are having.
Nearly 50 per cent of Australians know somebody who has been impacted by suicide, which is the leading cause of death of South Australians between the ages of 15 and 44. That is an alarming statistic. South Australia has the third highest rate of suicide in Australia per capita, with 234 lives unfortunately lost in 2020. Of the nine suicides on a daily basis, seven are men. That is another alarming statistic. In regional South Australia, statistics show that people are two times more likely to die by suicide. Over the last eight years, 555 lives have been lost to suicide.
Sadly, I have had to walk in on a situation where a person has suicided. I have walked in on a situation where a friend suicided, and it is something that sticks in the conscience forever. In the responsibility as shadow minister for mental health, suicide prevention and substance abuse, it is critical that we as representatives of our communities, state MPs, continue to support government policies, policies that are there for the betterment of people in our state, both in our electorates and our communities.
What I would like to say is that men are disproportionately at greater risk. The efforts and initiatives we saw over the former days of the Marshall Liberal government included instituting legislation to establish a whole of community and a whole of government approach to suicide prevention. We also promoted the Zero Suicide initiative, which was a great initiative. It is important this current government, rather than having front headline statements, gets on and addresses the policy shortcomings they are currently dealing with.
There are a couple of great initiatives. While we were in government, we reintroduced the FaB Scout mentoring program. It is about community leaders, community businesspeople having the ability to knock on the door and go into homes, understand the pressures on that family or individual, have a cup of tea and talk about the issues, recognising, if there is a problem, to open up that door to health experts so that we can help those people and potentially help save a life.
Another great initiative that I spoke to in this place yesterday is the Vocal Locals program. It is a great initiative that has been an experiment in the past two months in the Riverland through the Loxton community. The local project coordinator, John Gladigau, a local farmer and playwright, has played a great role. The project lead, Dr Kate Gunn, is a clinical psychologist, Department of Rural Health, UniSA, and she is also the founder of ifarmwell. It is an outstanding initiative that gives some training and some level of expertise to participants.
They are wellbeing coached by Tanya Lehman and research assistant, Dale Woodford. They have done an outstanding job in giving those people capability. The 10 participants are Mark DeCaux, Stephen May, Chloe Oldman, Travis Flight, Tim Paschke, Leanne Kaesler, Brenton Kroehn, Darren Letton, Peri McIntosh and Sam Hentschke. I thank them for their concerted effort in addressing and highlighting the importance of suicide prevention, particularly the mental health impacts it has not only on day-to-day lives but also on country communities at large.