Evaluation of suicide prevention activities

11.7 Consistency with the Australian Government Mental Health Reform agenda

Page last updated: January 2014

Note. This refers to the government at the time that the evaluation commenced. In September 2013 a change of government occurred.

As outlined in Section 3.6, the Mental Health Reform package, released in 2011, signalled the then incumbent Labor Government’s commitment to ongoing mental health reform. The reform package aimed to:
  • Improve access not only to mental health services but also to social support, housing, education and employment services for people with a mental illness
  • View mental illness not just as a health issue, but also take steps to improve economic and social participation by people with mental illness
  • Take a whole-of-life approach to the prevention and treatment of mental illness.
As described in Section 3.6, initiatives under the Mental Health Reform package that are particularly relevant to the NSPP are the formation of the Roadmap for Mental Health Reform (the Roadmap), the National Mental Health Commission and delivery of its first Report Card, the TATS package, and the expansion of the ATAPS Suicide Prevention service initiative.105

The NSPP was considered by stakeholders to be broadly aligned with the Mental Health Reform agenda. However a number of stakeholders expressed the view that the cause of suicide prevention has suffered due to too narrow a focus on mental health and mental illness (the one exception to this was a submission by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP)). This was considered in part to be a consequence of the responsibility for suicide prevention being 'pigeon holed' within the mental health units of governments. While the link between mental illness and suicide was acknowledged (including the increased risk of mental ill-health amongst those bereaved by suicide), there was general agreement that suicide prevention needs to broaden its focus beyond the biomedical paradigm to a broader 'social determinants' approach. There was strong agreement that suicide prevention should be leveraged out of all human service programs, and receive attention and commitment from all areas of government. A number of respondents commented on the need for a 'joined up' approach to suicide prevention.

By extension, articulating the Australian Government’s direction regarding suicide prevention in documents whose primary focus is on mental health and treatment of mental illness may potentially be seen to represent a similar narrowing of perspective in relation to suicide prevention. This is despite the fact that, under closer scrutiny, the Mental Health Reform agenda (as articulated through the Report Card and the Roadmap in particular) clearly addresses the issue of mental illness from a social determinants approach and advocates collective, multi-sectoral action to improve outcomes.

Key findings

While the NSPP is broadly aligned with the National Mental Health Reform agenda, some stakeholders believed that suicide prevention is too strongly linked to a mental health agenda, at the expense of a broader 'social determinants' approach.

105 Note: The Coalition Government, elected in 2013, has given a commitment to a review of existing mental health programs.