Legislative Council: Thursday, March 09, 2023


Suicide Prevention

The Hon. C. BONAROS (14:59): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, representing the Minister for Human Services in another place, a question about older South Australians taking their own lives.

Leave granted.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: A deeply disturbing and groundbreaking study undertaken right here in South Australia by Flinders University has painted a very tragic picture about the number of older Australians who have taken their own lives, falling through the cracks, scared and alone, while they wait to move into aged-care facilities.

For the first time, Flinders University researchers, headed by senior research fellow with the university's College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, Dr Monica Cations, looked at the number of people over 65 who are ending their lives before accessing aged-care services. Older adults record the highest age-specific suicide rate of any age group in most countries. The research showed that 354 older people, who are in the process of accessing or waiting for aged-care services, died by suicide in the nine-year focus study.

Dr Cations said there is a misconception older people who die by suicide are choosing it as a way of euthanasia, but the research shows that many older people who die that way are distressed by the idea of moving into residential care, and said, and I quote:

We need to take this risk seriously … we've older people who are really vulnerable, falling through the cracks…each death by suicide is potentially preventable.

My questions to the minister, noting that this is also a federal jurisdiction, are:

1. What is the state government doing to ensure our older citizens are getting the counselling and mental health support that they require?

2. What state government services are available to elderly people in South Australia, and their families, to assist them with the transition into aged care?

3. What is the current waiting period/backlog for elderly South Australians waiting to get into state-run aged-care facilities?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:02): I thank the honourable member for her question. I would imagine that all of us who heard the reports about that important piece of research were most concerned, and all of us would look for the best possible outcomes for our aged relatives. To hear that 354 older people have taken their own lives in the circumstances described is quite heartbreaking. In terms of the specifics of the question, I will refer that to the relevant minister in the other place and bring back a response.