Australia flags more inclusive strategies for suicide prevention

In late January 2020, the Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, announced new funding for suicide prevention programs. As the announcement occurred during the increasing concerns over the coronavirus, media attention to the funding announcement was minimal and this overlooked an important shift in suicide prevention strategies.

Six months ago the Prime Minister appointed Christine Morgan as his Suicide Prevention Adviser. As part of the funding announcement, Morgan spoke about a major change to suicide prevention strategies that acknowledges that not all suicides result from mental illness – a reality that has been emphasised by some Australian researchers for over several years. Significantly Christine Morgan is reported in Newscorp media as saying:

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Harm prevention gets short shrift from Aigroup report

The Australian Industry Group has released research into workplace mental health conducted by Griffith University. The AiGroup claims it is a

“… a landmark study into mental health initiatives taken in local workplaces”.

It is far from it. Workplace mental health will only become more important in 2020 with reports due from the Productivity Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission. Sadly the AiGroup report gives inadequate attention to the prevention of work-related psychological harm even though this has been identified by some Australian mental health experts as the most cost-effective and sustainable business strategy.

The most obvious problem with the report is with this statement:

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Australian research into corporate culture and mental health

In December 2019, it was announced that Professor Maureen Dollard had received funding to investigate “the impact of toxic workplaces on mental health”. The significance of this research is evident in the University of South Australia media release which describes this research as the “first of its kind in the world.

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Mental health and “workplace disability”

Deutsche Welle‘s regular program “World in Progress” reported on Work in its December 18 2019 edition. It includes discussions of exploitation and trafficking of Nigerian women and South Korean workers being pressured to reluctantly attend work functions. Of particular relevance to the theme of this blog is the last report in the program when workplace psychological health is discussed.

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