WATCH: New MP Delivers Heartbreaking Speech About His Father’s Suicide

This article talks about mental illness, specifically depression. If you’re struggling, call BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 for 24/7 counselling, or Lifeline on 13 11 12 if you are in crisis.

The brunt of yesterday’s coverage of maiden speeches in Parliament last night focused on the obvious contender – Pauline Hanson‘s. But new Liberal Senator Julian Leeser‘s speech was by any metric much, much better. Leeser is the new member for Berowra, having replaced outgoing MP Philip Ruddock.

Leeser used the opportunity to discuss the suicide of his father, which occurred when Leeser was 20 years old, and to call for a renewed focus on mental health issues in the Australian community.

He called for a broader approach, saying that despite the millions spent on mental health and suicide prevention, little has changed.

In the the past 20 years we have changed our approach to suicide, depression and mental health. And while there has rightly been a focus on the mental health of adolescents and young people, we must remember that people suffering at other stages in their lives are equally important. And sadly the number of older people taking their own lives is increasing – my own father was fifty five. 

In these past 20 years, we have spent millions on mental health and suicide prevention. Every government has tried – but despite all the good will, it is a fight we are losing. 
In my own electorate we have had more than 100 people take their own lives in the last eight years. And across Australia eight people die by suicide every day. All this shows that government money alone will not solve this epidemic. Treating depression as purely a medical issue is not working. Rather we need to rebuild caring communities where people know and notice the signs and acknowledge the people around them. Where we ask “Are you OK?”, or more directly “Are you contemplating suicide?” And we need to create the conditions where those who are thinking about suicide feel comfortable enough to ask for help.

The speech united the House of Representatives – the applause was deafening.

Now there’s a an address with value – probably better for the general wellbeing of the country than Hanson’s “I’ll drive any migrant to the airport to get them out” routine.

Source: Parliament of Australia.
Photo: Parliament of Australia.