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"If not me, then who?" The Q&A panel sat in silence for 2 minutes, while Krissi told her story.

Content warning: The following deals with suicide. If you are in need of crisis support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.

Last night, the usual mudslinging and virtue signalling on ABC panel show Q&A stopped for almost two minutes, as an audience member named Krissi Grant shared her family’s story. As the panel and the audience sat in silence, the grieving Sydney woman humanised an issue that has been described as a crisis and an epidemic.

“I lost my precious brother to suicide in 2015,” she said, through tears, “shattering and changing our lives forever.”

Krissi’s brother, Paul, took his own life at their family home on December 13, 2015, after a two-decade struggle against mental illness. Their mother, who had been his carer throughout, was the one who found him.

Video via ABC

“I live in Sutherland Shire of Sydney, down near Cronulla Beach, where is is little to no support for the bereaved and for the [suicidal],” she told the panel.

“I’m fighting with Sutherland Hospital, our local MPs, and pleading with Scott Morrison to do more. I have taken it on myself with some others to start a [community] mental health and suicide prevention action group, because if not me, then who?

“I’m disgusted at the lack of support. I’m disgusted at the lack of facilities, of all the money going to other agendas except for saving our lives. In Australia, suicide now takes eight lives a day, and I just can’t sit back and do nothing. I want to see safe houses. I want to see education and life skills. I want to see more done for the youth. I want to see kindness, respect. And I want us all to love, support and just encourage the mentally ill.

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“My brother was a beautiful, kind soul that was lost in the system… Since then, we’ve had no support. And I’m just sick of mental health being bottom of the barrel.”

Vikki Ryall from Headspace shares her advice on how parents can talk to their kids about mental health and suicide. (Post continues below.)

Krissi’s urgency is about more than her brother or her own grief. According to figures released last week by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, suicide was the leading cause of death of Australians aged 15-44. In 2017, the most recent year for which figures are available, 3128 Australians were so desperate they took their own lives. Seventy-five per cent of those were men.

The LGBTQI community and Indigenous Australians are shockingly over represented in those statistics — among the latter, rates were close to twice as high than among the broader population.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison this month announced the appointment of former Butterfly Foundation CEO, Christine Morgan, as the National Suicide Prevention Adviser, one part of a stunningly ambitious ‘towards zero suicide goal’. It comes on the back of the Government pledging a record $500,000,000 towards youth mental health and suicide prevention in the recent budget.

Morgan is expected to report back to the PM by November, with an interim report to be published in July 2020.

In the meantime, the details of how the goal could realistically be achieved, and in what time-frame, remain tellingly vague.

As British journalist and former political aide, Alastair Campbell, told last night’s Q&A panel, “The words are so easy. So, Scott Morrison has come in, and he’s said his goal is zero suicide. That’s a very big, bold goal… But don’t just say it. Have the plan.”

While MPs might not have the answers, people at the coalface of mental health and suicide prevention are more than willing to help find them. People like Krissi.

“Come to my house and I’ll tell you a plan,” she said last night. “Or come and visit us.”

Lifeline on 13 11 14
Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

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