Commonwealth appoints National Suicide Prevention Adviser, sets ‘zero’ as the goal

By Stephen Easton

Tuesday July 9, 2019

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has appointed National Mental Health Commission chief executive Christine Morgan as the Commonwealth government’s suicide-prevention adviser.

Morrison said “mental health and suicide prevention services” were a key priority for the government and “zero suicide” was now its goal. Morgan will work with Health Minister Greg Hunt and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on a whole-of-government approach.

“Suicide takes far too many Australians, devastating families and local communities,” the PM said. “One life lost to suicide is one too many, which is why my Government is working towards a zero suicide goal.”

Need to talk to someone? National 24-7 crisis services:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 |

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 |

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 |

MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78 |

Christine Morgan. Image: LinkedIn.

The National Mental Health Commission’s chair, organisational psychologist Lucy Brogden, said the appointment was recognition of both the tragic impact of suicide, and Morgan’s “exemplary skills in bringing communities and experts together to tackle difficult social and health problems”.

“Australia has a number of internationally recognised experts in suicide prevention for MsMorgan to work with in this new role, including recently appointed Commissioner Alan Woodward, founding director of the Lifeline Research Foundation.”

The NMHC said the government had asked Morgan to:

  • Report on the effectiveness of the design, coordination and delivery of suicide prevention activities in Australia, with a focus on people in crisis or increased risk, including young people and our first nations people.
  • Develop options for a whole-of-government coordination and delivery of suicide prevention activities to address complex issues contributing to Australia’s suicide rate, with a focus on community-led and person-centred solutions.
  • Work across government and departments to embed suicide prevention policy and culture across all relevant policy areas to ensure pathways to support are cleared, and people who are at an increased risk of suicide are able to access support.
  • Draw upon all current relevant work government and the sector is undertaking to address suicide, including the Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan and Implementation Strategy, and the findings of the Productivity Commission and Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System inquiries.

“The scope of this new role demonstrates the level of commitment the Government has to addressing the root causes of suicide across our communities, with a focus on at risk communities,” Brogden commented.

“It also recognises that many of the responses will need to target building better connected and capable communities, by supporting the programs and initiatives that are working on the ground.

“Success for this role and the Government’s commitment to mental health and suicide prevention will be to have a clear and significant pathway towards zero suicides in Australia.”

She said the NMHC looked forward to continuing to work with the federal government.

Morgan has previously contributed to support for people with eating disorders, as chief executive of the Butterfly Foundation and director of a related federally funded collaboration initiative for over 10 years. She has also been a senior manager at Wesley Mission and Telstra, following many years in senior legal and company secretary positions.

The PM said the government’s $503 million Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan was “the largest suicide prevention plan in Australia’s history” and said Indigenous Australians and veterans were recognised as at-risk groups along with younger people.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death for young Australians, accounting for over one-third of deaths among younger people aged 15-24 years,” Morrison noted. “The prevalence of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is around twice that of non-Indigenous Australians.”

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