Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:18): I, too, would like to make a contribution on World Mental Health Day and just reinforce some of the circumstances, situations and the challenges that everyday people face, particularly in the regions. As has been stated, those who live on the land, those who live off the land, particularly face strain and stressors that are exacerbated by the challenges of being a primary producer. Some of the challenges of living in a regional setting include the tyranny of distance, which does create a barrier, as does being somewhat isolated—isolated away from mainstream health support, whether it is mental health support or some of the suicide prevention initiatives that we have in society.
I think it has been very well documented that supporting one in five South Australians affected by mental health illness should be a priority of any government of any persuasion. This includes making sure that 45 per cent of South Australians who experience a diagnosable mental health illness throughout their life will better understand what it means to them and the needs that they would like to see addressed, particularly in a regional setting.
We know that suicide is the leading cause of death of South Australians between the ages of 15 and 44. As a local MP in a regional setting, I too have very proudly made initiatives not only as a local member, but a friend and I started up a men's shed. It was not the traditional men's shed that we all enjoy today, but it was a gathering of farmers, particularly men, who were going through a really rough period. That was back in the early 2000s, when we were going through drought and we were going through a downturn in commodity prices, not only in the wine industry but in a lot of the horticulture commodities.
That initiative has been running for over 30 years and it is still running today. We meet whenever I can, and when I am in the region I will get along on a Wednesday night to Bluey's. It is a men-only event and it gives an opportunity for men to have a conversation sitting around a roundtable. There is no music and we all take it in turns to cook, but we also show an initiative of starting that conversation. Many of these conversations are about exposing if someone is going through a tough time. It is about that conversation and it is about making sure that those visitors, whether they are new or ongoing, understand that they are not alone and that there are many who are in a similar situation.
As I have said, with these health issues—whether it is mental health, whether it is the conversation around suicide prevention—it has been well documented how much more magnified they are in the regions. Metropolitan Adelaide access to psychiatrists is comparable with the Scandinavian countries, but our regions are definitely at a disadvantage. I met with the Chief Psychiatrist only a couple of days ago, and the member for Elder graciously came up with her Suicide Prevention Council. I think it was a great initiative to come up to the Riverland and understand the challenges that that region is currently facing.
I also want to pay tribute to a couple of groups of women: Val and Judy, who gave an overview of what was happening in the Riverland. Val has been a long-time advocate of suicide prevention as well as the formation of the CORES Program. What we saw was that Val has had the initiative to come together and secure local government funding, and now the federal government has put some money towards trainers and community engagement officers. That has been a great initiative. I have been along to a number of community engagement meetings and it really does expose the vulnerability of people who are isolated in faraway places, living on a farm.
In some way, shape or form those people pull the blinds down and do not have an understanding of the support that is out there. Whether it is a medical professional or whether it is a neighbour or whether it is a good community citizen, those support mechanisms are there. I was very happy as a former primary industries minister to reinstate the FaB Scout mentoring program. That is about community people with some level of profile or understanding being able to knock on a door of the house knowing that that family member or that family is struggling, whether it is financially, whether it is their mental health, or whether it is social or marital issues that they are dealing with.
They sit down around the kitchen table and have that conversation and that understanding of just how severe the situation is and then comforting that person and saying that going to get help is okay and that having a conversation is okay. Many of these initiatives around that conversation really do help. We do not know just what some of those conversations have meant to a number of people. Has it saved a life? Has it saved an attempted suicide or a successful suicide? We know that men disproportionately lose their life through suicide because they just seem to be able to get it done, though that is not the right turn of phrase.
Sadly, I have been called to constituents' homes and I have been called to friends' homes where there are people who have attempted to take their life and who are not prepared to go and get medical help. I am a person without a uniform and without the baggage they deem would be intrusive, and I have sat down with people to get them talking and get them through that really tough phase.
I must mention the FaB Scout mentoring, particularly in the Riverland. Robin Caine, Brent Fletcher and John Chase are three outstanding community people who in many, many ways have had those conversations that will bring people out of an environment, where they are much more vulnerable, to gaining medical and professional help.
Some of the other initiatives I have attended over a long period of time include the Chew the Fat campaign. It has been a very, very successful gathering of farming men who come to a common shed in a district. They normally put on a few beers and have a pig on a spit, and they have motivational speakers there. I have listened to many motivational speakers. Derrick McManus is one many would be familiar with here in South Australia—a former police officer shot multiple times through a siege—and the story he tells is very touching. There are many more I could talk about, but I will not go into the detail because I know that I will forget names and the situations of some of them.
I must say that up in the Riverland we are currently going through some very uncertain times. We have the pressure on commodity prices, particularly in the wine industry, we have issues with some of the biosecurity challenges and we have the uncertainty with what the water reform packages will mean to regional communities. While I have the Deputy Premier here, I think it is pertinent that I do mention that a lot of governments make decisions in the city and do not have a clear understanding. I have lived it: I have been through water reform as an irrigator and I have seen what buybacks can do. I want to ensure that every available opportunity is dealt with, particularly in relation to people's mental health.
In closing, I want to make sure that any form of government of any persuasion does all it can to better support mental health and mental health support services and to acknowledge the great work our volunteers in regional settings do here in South Australia.