Mr NORTHE (Morwell): (19:12): (6382) My adjournment debate is directed to the Minister for Mental Health. The action I seek is for the minister and the state government to urgently provide funding to Lifeline to enable this incredible organisation to provide additional support to Victorians who are in crisis. I have previously written to the Treasurer and the Minister for Mental Health, some months ago, in the hope that the Victorian government would allocate $5.5 million in the 2022–23 state budget to building capacity in Victoria so that Lifeline here in Victoria could contend with the ever-increasing number of calls it was fielding. Disappointingly this minuscule amount of requested funding in comparison to the totality of the overall state budget was not forthcoming. Due to COVID and other circumstances, calls to the 13 11 14 Lifeline number in Victoria have increased from an average 680 calls per day in 2019 to nearly 1000 calls per day in 2021.
One of the greatest problems is this: Lifeline provides a national service, yet Victorians are making thousands more calls for assistance than are being answered here in Victoria. For example, in 2020 Victorians called 13 11 14 some 304 427 times, yet only 164 796 of those same calls were answered here in Victoria. In November 2021 the McKell Institute Victoria released a report titled Calling for Help: How Crisis Lines Support Victorians’ Mental Health. In part the report says that with almost a third of all calls to Lifeline coming from Victorians:
… there needs to be an ongoing effort to increase the capacity of Lifeline’s services to meet the demand …
Given this report, given the discrepancy in Victorians not answering calls made by Victorians and given the increased statistics relating to Victorians calling Lifeline’s crisis number, it makes no sense that a minor amount of funding cannot be found to support such a critical service. Way back in September 2018 I raised in Parliament the issue of suicide prevention with the then Minister for Mental Health. In part the minister referenced the government setting a noble but challenging objective to halve the suicide rate by 2025 as part of a 10-year plan. The minister at the time stated how appalling it was that 646 Victorians lost their lives in 2014. But unfortunately the trend is not going down, with more than 700 deaths in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and a slight reduction, down to 683, in 2021. In regional Victoria the number of deaths rose from 217 in 2017 to 248 in 2021. One has to ask: what has happened to the 10-year plan to halve the suicide rate? Surely one thing we can do is ensure that crisis service providers like Lifeline are adequately supported and funded. I again call upon the government and the minister to provide urgent funding to build capacity and infrastructure for Lifeline in Victoria.