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The NSW government’s $90 million commitment to arrest the state’s alarming rate of suicide has been welcomed by the state’s peak social services body.

The New South Wales Council of Social Services CEO Joanna Quilty said the investment in mental health could not come soon enough, particularly in regional, rural and remote NSW, where the lack of mental health services, particularly for young people, was a great concern.

"Australians in regional and rural communities die by suicide at twice the rate recorded in capital cities,” said Ms Quilty. "This is driven by isolation, stigma surrounding mental health, a lack of employment opportunities and a lack of access to services.

“NCOSS welcomes the Berejiklian government’s commitment to more mental health counsellors in rural and regional areas and the focus on community-led initiatives, rather than a top down approach. I particularly congratulate the government on their focus on aftercare - we know that people are at most risk after an attempted suicide.

“NCOSS urges the government to expand the peer workforce, particularly in the context of the need for after-care for people discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt. Peer workers need to be a part of a holistic approach to make sure people get the care they need in the community."

Another area where more funding would be also particularly effective in preventing suicide would be NSW’s schools, which are already doing much of the prevention work with limited funding, said Ms Quilty.

"Communities have told us about the incredible work schools are doing to support student mental health and wellbeing, and we urge the government to further invest in early invention at our schools across the state,” said Ms Quilty.

Schools play a significant role in promoting mental health and wellbeing to young people, as well as helping to reduce stigma and equip students with life skills such as coping with stress and adversity. As an ideal setting to provide early intervention and monitoring, NCOSS wants increased investment in schools to provide evidence-based prevention programs and help with referral to services.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 44 years,” said Ms Quilty. “The rate of death by suicide is double that of the NSW road toll.

"When road deaths were surging in the 1970s we acted and delivered a comprehensive strategy to address it, which included vehicle safety requirements, mandatory seat belts and helmets, tackling drink driving and improved roads.

“Prevention of suicide requires the same comprehensive approach and investment - from early prevention services to crisis care, as well as aftercare. We must not leave suicide prevention just to our health services, we must invest in the work our schools and communities are doing to promote mental health and wellbeing.

“For example, if you live in Northern NSW the rate of suicide is nearly triple that in Northern Sydney. We should also note that regional NSW boasts some of the highest unemployment and youth unemployment figures - the research is still emerging, but there is an anecdotal link between lack of work and suicide.

"Applying a public health framework, which address these underlying causes of suicide and involve sectors outside of health, such as education, business and industry, is therefore an important component in any effective suicide prevention response. 

“NCOSS is pleased the critical role played by community-managed organisations and non-government sector in improving the mental health outcomes across NSW has been recognised by the premier.

"We look forward to seeing the details of the plan and working with the government and the sector to deliver a comprehensive plan for suicide prevention across NSW.”

Investment in schools’ mental health programs is a key pillar of NCOSS' 2019 Election Platform that it will be asking candidates to commit to.

Media contact: Suze Metherell 0412 867 084