Commonwealth Appoints New Suicide Prevention Adviser

Suicide is one of the greatest preventable public health and social challenges of our time. Community support to prevent suicides is strong, especially from people who have a lived experience of suicide. All governments have heard this call to action and have made suicide prevention a priority, committing significant funding towards reducing suicide rates.

In fact, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government’s $503 million Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan was “the largest suicide prevention plan in Australia’s history”.

Making suicide prevention a priority

As one part of making suicide prevention a priority, all governments have committed to drafting a new national suicide prevention strategy for Australia: the National Suicide Prevention Implementation Strategy. This strategy will embody the collective aspiration of all governments that fewer lives are lost to suicide and will be supported by every health minister in Australia.

This consultation document sets out 21 Priority Actions that are proposed for inclusion in the strategy with the intention that all health ministers commit to work together to implement them over the first three years of this new strategy.

Appointment of a National Suicide Prevention Adviser

Another part of making suicide prevention a priority is the appointment of National Mental Health Commission chief executive Christine Morgan as the Commonwealth government’s Suicide-Prevention Adviser. The appointment is recognition of both the tragic impact of suicide, and Morgan’s “exemplary skills in bringing communities and experts together to tackle difficult social and health problems”.

Scientia Professor and Director of the Black Dog Institute, Helen Christensen, said that this appointment indicates the commitment of the Federal Government to make real changes in this area.

“The creation of this advisory role is a welcome commitment by the Federal Government and the Prime Minister to acknowledge the need for national strategic leadership in suicide prevention.

We know that we all need to work together to create the best approach – and we know enough to say that this approach must involve public health measures, attention to the social determinants of health, early prevention in schools, as well as targeted, kind, responsive and effective treatment and crisis services ”.

Under her appointment, Ms Morgan will be tasked with:

  • Reporting on the effectiveness of the design, coordination and delivery of suicide prevention activities in Australia, with a focus on people in crisis or increased risk, including young people and our first nations people.
  • Developing options for a whole-of-government coordination and delivery of suicide prevention activities to address complex issues contributing to Australia’s suicide rate, with a focus on community-led and person-centred solutions.
  • Working across government and departments to embed suicide prevention policy and culture across all relevant policy areas to ensure pathways to support are cleared, and people who are at an increased risk of suicide are able to access support.
  • Drawing upon all current relevant work government and the sector is undertaking to address suicide, including the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan and Implementation Strategy, and the findings of the Productivity Commission and Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System inquiries.

Ms Morgan has previously contributed to support for people with eating disorders, as chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation and director of a related federally funded collaboration initiative for over 10 years. She has also been a senior manager at Wesley Mission and Telstra, following many years in senior legal and company secretary positions.


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