Psychiatry Professor, Patrick McGorry, Australian of the Year, calls for immediate upgrade on mental health services.

Patrick McGorry, Australian of the Year wants to see immediate upgrade of mental health services to halt the alarming spike in suicides.

From 2007 to 2008, more than 4,000 people took their own lives, at a ratio of six people per day, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Just a few months after being given the title Australian of the Year, Patrick McGorry, a professor at the University of Melbourne has been bombarded with hundreds of letters and emails describing what he calls the tragic and corrosive impact of suicide on individuals and families.

He said, It puts the human story into these terrible figures.

The magnitude of it is staggering. It's a huge public health challenge for Australia.

It is high time the nation paid attention to the problems, says Prof McGorry. What is needed is an upgrade of mental health resources because only about a third of people who need help are getting it.

We are not seeing a reduction because the main driver of suicide is unrecognized, untreated or poorly treated mental ill health, he said.

Getting the right response requires an accurate assessment of the extent of the problem says Caroline Aebersold, vice chairwoman of Suicide Prevention Australia.

It is critical that we have the right funding and the right sort of programs supported to address such an enormous health issue in Australia, she said.

The way the police records data is different and differences are evident in the way coroners in different coronial courts and different laws allow them report on suicide.

It is a good thing that ABS has been changing its processes so that we can get a more accurate picture, but unfortunately it is only one chip of the iceberg of what the nature of the problem of under-reporting a suicide is.

Laura Kennan, general manager of clinical support for Crisis Support Services, which runs telephone support services, SuicideLine and Mensline says, We certainly know that each day we take up to 100 calls from people at risk of suicide across our services.

There would be many more out there who are not accessing the help that they need because they don't know where to go for help or they are afraid of speaking out about suicide of they just don't have the abilities within themselves to seek that support.

The Federal government's promise of major announcement on mental health reform cannot come soon enough, says Prof McGorry.

No one is suggesting we should go back to the old separate structure in mental hospitals, but what we need is a modern, 21st-century model of care which is very strong on the community side, linked to primary care and reducing the downstream pressures on our very beleaguered acute hospital system, he said.

Please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, if you need someone to talk to, about your personal problems.