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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8490


Ms KEAY (Braddon) (12:29): As I rise to speak on this motion here today, it is estimated around four million Australians aged 16 to 85 are affected by mental ill health. This represents about 20 per cent or one in five Australians—that is, one in five people in each town or city, each workplace and each community. This covers a range of illnesses, from mothers struggling with postnatal depression to young people in schools, and from employees facing stress and anxiety in the workplace to some of our ethnic minority communities who face a high incidence of some conditions. The mental health of our LGBTIQ community is also of concern, with lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians twice as likely to have a high to very high level of psychological distress than their heterosexual peers. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in the 15 to 17 years age group have a suicide rate more than five times higher than their non-Indigenous peers. These are our people, and we must do more.

In 2016 the ABS revealed that suicide was the leading cause of death among all people aged 15 to 44 and the third most common cause of death among those 45 to 54 years of age. In 2016, 2,866 Australians died from suicide: 11.8 people in every 100,000; around eight people every single day; one person every three hours. There are around 65,000 suicide attempts each year in Australia. That's almost 180 people a day who want to end their lives. These statistics are heartbreaking and confronting.

Along Tasmania's north-west, in my electorate of Braddon, we have some of the highest rates of suicide in the country. We know that there is a prevalence of mental ill health among those living in regional, rural and remote areas. Tasmania's youth suicide rate is the highest in the country, which is why a Shorten Labor government would commit to restoring $4.5 million in funding to TAZREACH, which is a specialist access program that the Liberals cut in 2016, and to creating a headspace centre in Burnie.

There exists unspoken discrimination regarding mental health, like the vast inequalities in funding for research, and like the lack of mental health training for many health department staff. Whether in GP surgeries, outpatient clinics, emergency departments or our first responder units. Primary care professionals are telling us they need more training in mental health than they have. A lack of understanding of mental ill health seems to characterise parts of the social security system, and there is a willingness in this government to overpromise and underdeliver when it comes to providing care for those suffering from mental ill health.

The WHO predicts that by 2030 depression will be the leading cause of disease around the world. People can lose years off their lives as mental ill health undermines their physical health too, increasing their vulnerability in the face of cancer, heart disease and other killers. Mental health must be at the top of the agenda for this government and governments to come. When the new Prime Minister was asked on radio last week for his views on the fundamentalist Christian practice of gay conversion therapy, his response was:

… it's just not an issue for me and I'm not planning to get engaged in the issue.

Well, Prime Minister, allow me to be the first of many to tell you: it is an issue for you. It's an issue for the nearly five per cent of the Australian teenage homosexual population who live in fear of being subjected to a therapy that's been discredited by experts and can have dangerous and sometimes deadly consequences. Real leaders don't wash their hands of serious problems and say, 'That's got nothing to do with me.' They take a stand. They stand up for the mental health of our LGBTIQ population. They stand up and do more to tackle homophobia within religious organisations. They stand up and lead for the people, not fellow Christians. They stand up and vote with a clear conscience, not abstain or vote with a religious conscience.

Mental health is as much an economic challenge as it is a social challenge. The extra physical care necessitated by mental ill health costs the health system several extra million dollars a year. The criminal justice system also picks up the bill. More than one in four of our prison inmates report being on medication for a mental health disorder. Not just do our public services bear the brunt of mental ill health; Australian businesses do too, in time off work and unproductive days at work. Mental health conditions cost Australian workplaces $4.7 billion in absenteeism and $145 million in compensation claims. This costs our economy much more than we can afford. Labor knows there is much to do to ensure Australians living with mental ill health have access to the services they need no matter where they live. Good mental health doesn't start in hospital or the treatment room. It starts in our workplaces, our schools and our communities, and it starts with this government.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.