Monday, 29 April 2024

Reception for National Suicide Prevention Conference

Rod and I warmly welcome you all to Government House to mark 25 years of the National Suicide Prevention Conference, which begins tomorrow.

I especially welcome those of you who have travelled from interstate or overseas to attend the conference and be with us this evening.

Supporting the mental health of all South Australians is one of Rod’s and my shared priorities during my term as Governor.

It is a pleasure to support the mental health and wellbeing of South Australians - we consider it a responsibility too.

The impact of suicide in our community cannot be overstated.

For every person who dies by suicide, the devastating impact ripples out through the person’s family, friends, and broader community.

Researchers have found that up to 130 people are affected to some degree by every person lost in this way.

Addressing suicide in our society is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

To the doctors, counsellors and lived experience practitioners in the room, I thank you for working with vulnerable members of our community, often at the darkest time in their lives.

To the researchers, policy makers and administrators with us, I thank you for your efforts to develop the most effective interventions to address suicide in our community, and to ensure Australians can access them when needed.

And to those who have been personally touched by the loss of someone to suicide, your strength and willingness to share what needs to change is honoured by all of us here.

While you may not have made an intentional choice to work in such a challenging and complex space, your dedication to saving lives is crucial to the wellbeing of our communities.

I see you, and the important work you do.

Research shows that mental distress affects as many as one in five Australians every year.

In fact, in our lifetimes, more than 80 percent of us will experience distress ourselves or be within one degree of someone who does.

Rod and I know how it feels to be within that one degree.

Although there is more to be done, society has made considerable progress in addressing and reducing the discrimination and prejudice faced by Australians experiencing mental health challenges.

What remains pervasive in the community is the idea that mental health challenges are an “illness” or “disease” and are for life, when that’s not true.

While tragically, lives are lost to suicide in Australia every day, the causes, and therefore our prevention efforts, lie in addressing social determinants.

We know that many people who take their own lives are not known to our mental health system at all.

On a very positive note, most people who experience episodes of poor mental health receive treatment, recover and go on to live productive and happy lives.

As Taimi Allan, the South Australian Mental Health Commissioner has said to me - recovery is not just possible, it is probable.

No doubt this message of hope sustains you in your work, as it does me, in my role as Patron of the Breakthrough Mental Health Foundation and in other endeavours.

It is, as per your conference theme, a source of ‘collective courage’ as you work towards the vision of Suicide Prevention Australia: a world without suicide.

I thank Suicide Prevention Australia for organising this conference and bringing it to Adelaide.

I trust you will find the speakers and what they have to share of great benefit.

I thank Suicide Prevention Australia for its tireless efforts to represent more than 400 members, including more than 140,000 workers, staff and volunteers across Australia’s suicide prevention sector.

I note that this evening is one of the last official duties for Angela Emslie, Chair of the Suicide Prevention Australia Board, after more than a decade of leading the organisation, and I thank her sincerely for her contributions.

In the 2024 conference theme, the first phrase is ‘collective courage’. The second is ‘accelerate impact’.

I am confident this conference, through its networking and learning opportunities, will support you to take meaningful action both individually and collectively to reduce suicide and its impact.

Together we can build communities where all Australians are empowered with a sense of belonging, a belief in their potential, and a commitment to living life – in all of its joy, challenge and complexity.

Coming events