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New suicide prevention initiative, LifeSpan, officially launched

Today in Young, Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack formally launched a new suicide prevention initiative.

LifeSpan is an integrated, systems approach to suicide prevention, which aims to build a community safety net to help prevent suicide. LifeSpan is being implemented in local communities in the LGAs of Bland, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Griffith, Hay, Junee, Leeton, Snowy Valleys, Wagga Wagga and Hilltops.

Mr McCormack said the Federal Government was committed to addressing mental health issues, particularly in regional and rural areas.

“The Federal Government understands the need for programs such as LifeSpan to build a stronger network to prevent suicide,” Mr McCormack said.

“The Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network is doing a commendable job of providing the framework for vulnerable people to seek help when and where they need it.

“We, as a Government, have provided more than $19 million to the Murrumbidgee PHN specifically for mental health and suicide prevention.”

Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) CEO Melissa Neal said the organisation has a strong commitment to working alongside local communities to deliver LifeSpan with the aim of reducing suicide deaths and attempts.

“Suicide affects everyone across the community, it does not discriminate, and we know that, sadly, we have higher than state average suicide rates in the Murrumbidgee region.

“With funding through the Australian Government’s PHN Program we have already rolled out a number of local initiatives as part of our suicide prevention activities and LifeSpan fits well with these.

“We are fortunate the Black Dog Institute chose our region as one of the four NSW trial sites for LifeSpan,” Ms Neal said.

Ms Neal said MPHN works in close partnership with local community members and organisations including Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD), NSW Police, NSW Ambulance, NSW Department of Education, Wellways, GPs, and local Aboriginal medical services to achieve the best possible outcomes for local communities and prevent suicide.

Black Dog Institute’s Director of Research for LifeSpan Dr Fiona Shand, said how pleased they were to be working with MPHN to bring LifeSpan to the region.

“We know that there are effective, evidence-based strategies to prevent suicide, but it is only when all sectors work together across communities that we can have a much bigger impact on reducing suicide.

“The key to making this work is having strong local leadership, which is driven by local community members and organisations like we have here in the Murrumbidgee trial site.

“Suicide effects everyone, which means we all have a role to play.

“We’re pleased to have such a strong relationship with Murrumbidgee PHN implementing the nine LifeSpan strategies across the region,” Dr Shand said.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke MP, said LifeSpan is important to the area.

“Suicide is a topic which can affect so many people and yet so few are willing to talk about it openly.

“But it’s only through open and honest discussion, then creating support systems for those in need, that we will be able to create safety nets and be more effective at preventing suicide.

“I’m honoured that Murrumbidgee PHN has asked me to become involved with LifeSpan because I strongly believe that we as a community can do better, and this initiative is an encouraging step in the right direction,” Ms Cooke said.

Fran Godde (LifeSpan Collective), Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke MP, Wendy Dunk (Wilders Bakery), Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack MP, Melissa Neal (MPHN), Fiona Shand (Black Dog Institute), Seryn Adams and Jenna Roberts (MPHN).