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Plea for Suicide Campaign Prompts Federal Support

A LIBERAL state backbencher's call for a $10 million suicide prevention campaign has the support of a key advisor on mental health issues and a federal senate inquiry, despite a similar plan being rejected by the Gillard government last year.

The member for Hornsby, Matt Kean, used his inaugural speech to mourn the suicide of a colleague and recall the loss of two peers who killed themselves while he was a student at St Ignatius' College, Riverview.

"I am calling on the government to commit to an annual $10 million advertising campaign on suicide prevention," he said in a statement yesterday, reiterating comments made in his speech.

"We need to send a clear message to people that they are not alone and there is always someone there to listen and to care no matter how dark, how helpless or how ashamed they might feel.''

Professor Ian Hickie, who advised the Liberal Party on its mental health policy before the state election, said Mr Kean's proposal would save lives. He said it was part of a renewed focus on preventive and community-based mental health the government would take to a Council of Australian Governments meeting this month.

''We need this as much as road safety ads and anti-smoking ads and breast cancer screening,'' he said. ''These are major public health issues. Not discussing suicide doesn't help. Many people in the field feel we went down the wrong track because we misinterpreted much of the advice around discussing suicide. We confused the effects of discussing individual suicides with suicides more generally.''

The Minister for Mental Health, Kevin Humphries, said Mr Kean's inaugural speech brought a renewed focus on youth suicide and Mr Kean would be asked to give ideas to the government's Mental Health Taskforce.

He said the state government would provide specific funding to the NSW Suicide Prevention Strategy, which was released by the former Labor government and would be strengthened by the Coalition.

''The Department of Health has set aside $4.8 million for a suite of actions under the strategy and, in addition, it is important to determine how the overall mental health budget of $1.25 billion can be focused on the issue of suicide prevention,'' Mr Humphries said.

Last year's senate inquiry into suicide recommended a ''national suicide prevention and awareness campaign'' that would provide information on risks and misconceptions and offer advice on how to seek help.

Suicide is Preventable - a coalition of charities and community groups focused on mental health and suicide prevention - submitted that a five-year national campaign should have a minimum budget of $10 million a year.

But the measure was not supported by the government response. ''In the absence of substantial international and national evidence, and in light of a lack of consensus in the suicide prevention sector and among experts in the field, the government is not convinced that a national, multimedia social marketing campaign is the best way to provide this targeted information,'' it said.

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