Concerning suicide rates ignored

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A suicide prevention initiative launched by the State Government is under fire after failing to recognise Casey or Cardinia Shire, despite concerning suicide rates in the region.

The $27 million framework, announced last week, would focus on halving the rate of suicide over the next 10 years by implementing strategies such as workforce training, school-based support and mental health literacy programs in six local government areas.

These include the Mornington Peninsula, Brimbank, Whittlesea, Mildura, Latrobe Valley and Ballarat regions, selected on the basis of prevalence, population and community demographics, local capacity and existing suicide prevention efforts.

But figures show Cardinia Shire and Casey have higher rates of suicide than in Melton and Whittlesea.

In recent years, suicide rates in Casey have fluctuated between six and 11 per 100,000, while Cardinia rates exceeded 19 in 2010 and 2011.

Rates more than doubled in the City of Casey from 2010 to 2011 as communities were devastated by clusters of youth suicides.

In a 12-month period, 10 people aged 24 or younger ended their lives in Casey-Cardinia.
State member for Gembrook Brad Battin, who has a background in the mental health field, plans to raise the matter at the next parliament sitting on Monday 15 August.

“While we always welcome any funding towards mental health, it is extremely disappointing that the Cardinia and Casey corridors haven’t been recognised in the framework, especially after the issues we had in the past five years,“ Mr Battin said.

“The government has failed to identify the ongoing issue in the growth corridor of the south east. I intend to raise it with government at the next parliament sitting to reconsider their position. I will also request the government delivers a community health and well-being centre for Casey at Berwick Secondary College.

“It is not new and deserves attention. The community need assistance and have continuously requested intervention. This vital project is of the highest importance and will save local young people’s lives and offer assistance to youth with mental health illness.”

The proposed mental health facility at Berwick College is not currently on the government’s priority list.

Principal Kerri Bolch said her vision for many years had been to build a centre at the school’s site to educate, and be available to students and young school graduates.

“We have lived through some terrible times in Casey, and we are still experiencing loss to suicide,” Ms Bolch said.

“I am absolutely committed to supporting our young people and our families with mental health issues. We have the support of St John of God hospital, the Rotary Club of Berwick, Bendigo Community Bank Beaconsfield, the City of Casey, South Eastern Private Hospital and several members of parliament but I am disappointed that we have been unable to attract funding.

“I am determined that we will make this happen. I hope when these trials are complete, Berwick College will be supported to help look after our area.”

Lifeline Gippsland’s David Rohde said suicide rates in the Gippsland region were above the state average.

“Suicide deaths are higher than the road toll yet there is more funding spent on addressing the road toll than suicide,” Mr Rohde said.

“It’s great to see it finally being recognised. Hopefully the funding spreads to the rest of Victoria and we see an impact from these programs.”

A Department of Human Services spokesman said the trial locations would test and refine new strategies and form the basis for future investment.

In August last year, state coroner Audrey Jamieson released her findings on an investigation into the cluster of youth suicides in Casey and Cardinia in 2011 and 2012.

The resulting recommendations included a call for the Municipal Association of Victoria in consultation with the City of Casey to develop a suicide prevention and post-vention response framework for local government.

The Federal Government responded by rolling out a suicide prevention training program to four high schools in Casey, Cardinia and Dandenong.

All figures in the article refer to the rate per 100,000 population.
Those in need of immediate assistance can phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Originally published at Berwick News.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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