Page 3763 - Week 10 - Thursday, 14 September 2017

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

As the first dedicated Minister for Mental Health in the ACT, I know that we need to talk more about our mental health and wellbeing. Each of us can do more in our own lives, starting with making a real effort to look out for our loved ones and acquaintances and commit to asking them “are you okay?” when you have a feeling that they are struggling or are not behaving as they normally would. Given that one in every five Australians experiences mental ill-health each year, it is an issue that directly or indirectly touches most Canberrans. Each of us needs to be informed about mental health and we have a responsibility to create supportive and inclusive communities.

The impact of stigma associated with mental illness can be as debilitating as the illness itself. Stigma can prevent people from seeking help early and it can contribute to social withdrawal, feelings of shame and a reduced capacity to participate in our community. That is why using such informal and normalising language like “Are you okay?” can really help people to open up about the challenges they are facing and ask for support. I believe it is also time to engage with mental health differently. Rather than just focusing on the problem of mental illness, we should also consider the resilience and strength that supporting each other can bring.

I grew up in a small town on the South Coast, and from a young age learned to really value community connectedness and the support and sense of wellbeing it brings. Similarly, Canberra is a place where community is strong and families and friendships can thrive—no-one is ever too far away, and it is important to remember that. When life gets busy, it can be easy to lose connections, but in Canberra it is not too hard to pick them back up again. As social connectedness is a protective factor in suicide prevention, it is important to hold on to those relationships.

The mission of R U OK? is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. R U OK? targets the help-giver, not the person who is struggling. It tells us that we should trust our gut when we think someone is not okay, learn how to ask and listen without judgement, and encourage people struggling to take action. R U OK? nurtures our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others. It also gives us the tools to have these conversations, with the four steps to an R U OK? conversation guide. These messages are very empowering as they give us all a sense that we can contribute to the wellbeing of our loved ones and those in our community by connecting with them through meaningful conversations.

Mental health and suicide prevention are continued priorities for the ACT government. We recognise the importance of investing in prevention and the promotion of support services and also in the need to provide coordinated and accessible services to those in our community who need help. Any death from suicide is one too many. However, it is a sad fact that each year so many families and communities are torn apart by these untimely and preventable deaths.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for people under the age of 45, with an average of eight Australians taking their lives every single day. So on this day I congratulate the R U OK? foundation on their work and offer the reminder that as a

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video