My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Mental Health. The action I seek from the Minister is to urgently review the State Government funding amount provided to Lifeline Gippsland and double it at a cost of $135,000 per annum.
It is no secret that this year has taken a dramatic toll on our mental health and wellness. COVID-19 has placed enormous pressure on individuals in connectedness, finances, jobs and freedoms. These issues will have impacts upon mental health for years to come.
Suicide rates in Victoria are on the rise with 530 people taking their lives so far for the 2020 year and 391 of these were men. Regional Victorians are over represented in these statistics with 34% being from the country.
In November of 2015, the Government committed to halving the suicide rate in Victoria and whilst I commend them on this ambitious goal, it is obviously not tracking very well. Our suicide rates have only increased since then.
Lifeline Gippsland has been a leader in life-saving support for over fifty years and we need them now, more than ever. The then Minister for Mental Health last year even agreed: “Lifeline in Morwell is one of the oldest Lifeline branches in the country… and the team there do an outstanding job”.
The Minister also noted: “Certainly, when it comes to regional and rural Victoria, the issues that the honourable member raises are of, literally, life-and-death significance to hundreds of communities right around the state”.
For many years, I have advocated for the increase to Lifeline Gippsland’s funding, which is currently only funded to cover 12% of its annual needs.
Their volunteers make a remarkable impact to the lives and families of those accessing the service. They are well placed to understand and implement additional measures to support our community in order to address the abhorrent suicide rates we experience.
Lifeline Gippsland complete a large amount of fundraising activities to fund their services such as; Op Shops, plants sales, charity book fairs and selling bulk rags – but this is hard work and not reliable.
By increasing State Government funding, Lifeline Gippsland will be able to directly:
a. Vitally provide additional training to increase the number of Crisis Supporters responding to 13 14 11 calls
b. Implement face-to-face peer support groups for our most vulnerable cohorts including men and youth
c. Paid shifts for unfulfilled shifts that are difficult to staff due to the timeframes such as midnight to 4am
Devastatingly, the new State Budget handed down this week does not reflect any additional investment to Lifeline.
The Government’s Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System was a huge expense to the taxpayer – $135,000 is not asking a huge amount.
Every single death leaves an enormous scar on the people and communities they leave behind – and the Latrobe Valley have experienced their fair share of devastation. We shouldn’t be putting a price on these lives and must do everything we can in order to protect them. I urge the Minister to support Lifeline Gippsland, in this regard.