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Advocacy Planning and Mental Illness Problem in Remote Communities in Australia

Introduction to Suicide Prevention in Australia

Mental illness and suicide rates in the communities outside the major cities of Australia are among one the highest in the world and twice as much as in the major cities of Australia. This essay will try to find out the avenues and scope of the advocacy planning or urban development with t=which the problem of mental illness in these communities can be prevented and that the people here can be promoted to live up to the maximum and optimum potential (Christensen , 2016). Advocacy panning is a theory of urban planning in which p-pluralism and inclusive ideas are added and this perspective does evolute for better community development learning, this theory was first developed in the 1960s by Paul Davidoff and Linda Davidoff and this includes planners seeking to represent various interests of the different groups in a society. The originator of this type of planning believed that advocacy planning is most important to represent the rural, minority, and low-income group people who cannot compete with rich people and powerful in the conditions of laissez-faire (Bishop et al, 2017). This planning concept on the basis that not all the stakeholders are equally represented even in the best form of democracy and are not involved in the planning process and leaves the vulnerable groups with lower socioeconomic status vulnerable to the interests of the larger community and richer groups say private companies or public institutions.

OECD (2017) defines mental health as a state of well being in which an individual fully realizes his/her own full potential, who can cope up with the normal stresses of life and can work in a productive manner and effectively with his/her own satisfaction, is able to contribute, make some contributions to his/her community. Mental health is about cognitively, behaviorally, and socially healthy. Lower levels of mental health can cause the inability to cope with the stresses, can affect work productivity and the person prevents himself from community actions. These mental disorders can convert into the feeling of suicide which is a major health problem in Australia where more years of potential life has been lost than any other disease or cause of death.

Suicide is the most common cause of death in Australia with the age group of 15 to 44 which is considered the most vibrant, energetic, and productive age group, this rate of death is double in the outer side and countryside of Australia outside the major cities and this represents that the deaths are more common than motor vehicles accidents or cancer. Over 2500 people in Australia die of suicide every year and more than 66000 make at least one attempt to take their life. These numbers have fluctuated over the past two decades for unknown reasons. However, the youth suicide rate has been declining in Australia but now the pieces of evidence suggest that this rate has again started to increase. Over the past two decades, the commonwealth and Australia, in particular, have developed various suicide prevention policies to lower the rate of suicides in Australia. The Australia national suicide prevention policy (NSPS) which provides a platform for various policymaking tools to prevent suicides with special emphasis ohm promotion prevention and intervention in the early stage. Looking at the common strategy of these policies it is worth noting that four components which are living are for everyone framework, the national suicide preventing strategy framework, suicide prevention program and mechanism to promote alignment with various states and enhances the programs and promotion of such program into states have been the basic components on which various suicide preventing policies were based (Fitzpatrick et al, 2019). The matter of suicide was also the main part of the national mental health commissions’ remit. CRESP reviewed all the suicide prevention policies of the commonwealth and various states of Australia and found common characteristics and similarities among the commonwealth, national, and state policies. However, dispute such efforts and policymaking since a long time, a comprehensive approach towards this problem has been missing, indeed there has been frustration about the uncoordinated efforts of the state and national actions and at the same time, evidence from Japan and UK was that the best suicide prevention approach can only be made with a multilevel and multifactorial system-based approach and there is increased support for this approach to be taken up by Australia and CRESP reviewed these evidence and made nine strategies that could be very effective in preventing these suicides.

Advocacy planning can help and fill the gaps that have been identified with the national and states planning which lacked comprehensiveness and cohesion and coordination according to CRESP. This strategy can be included in the already made planning and policies and can be one of the important factors of the policymaking process and the policy itself. All the stakeholders of the society have to be included in the policymaking and urban planning process, without sufficient care and protection, the interests and concerns of these communities and individuals cannot be represented in the planning nor can they be reflected in the procedure of planning (Kinchin & Doran, 2018). In practice, advocacy planning uses the experience and knowledge of the scope of planning to represent the needs and necessities of the individuals. These people are generally from the lower socioeconomic background and can be from slums, agricultural areas, or outer areas of the urban planned cities who are unable to access the resources even allotted to them due to lack of knowledge or reach (Geogatos, 2018). Advocacy planning works with these people to provide them with the resources, skills, and tools and include these disadvantageous people within the planning process, and preserve their social and economic needs to fully incorporate their productivity and potential of life. This type of planning in the policymaking of suicide and mental health problems which can provide these people with adequate resources, skills, tools, chances, and potential to work in different areas of exploration which can lower the chances of their bad orientation towards life and the rate of suicide and mental health illness problems considerably lower.

Advocacy planning is today the foundation of all the modern planning procedures and policies. It allows a policymaking team to differentiate between progressive community plans and the generic community needs and plans as the condition for advocacy planning is to defend the lower communities from destruction the process of advocacy planning involves the dual process of raising awareness and providing with adequate resources (Planning Tamnk, 2015). The plan first allows for competition among the planners themselves in representing the ideas and wants of their clients. A healthy amount of competition would raise the quality of the final resources and tools to be allocated to the clients in need and increase the productivity of the planning process, which Davidoff named conflict keeps people honest. Secondly, rather than critiquing the critiques and institutions, the criticizers are given n opportunity to prove themselves right and prove the planners wrong in their planning through the dialogues and to give feedback on the plans made which creates a constructive environment of participation rather than simply critiquing which can catch emotional ignorance (Cooke, 2020). However, simply providing a platform will not be enough for these downtrodden communities as participative planning like these needs a certain level of critical intellect and theories from the individual level of participation; otherwise, the communities may struggle to identify the needs and challenges without being aware of the bigger social and economic forces which significantly influence their choices. Thus these communities where suicidal thought and tendencies prevail are needed to understand about basic needs and capacities and then separate advocates be allocated to each of the community to essentially manage to bring their ideas, needs, and resources forward against the other same downtrodden communities and not so rich communities so that their actual needs and the reason of such tendencies be found out and then the planning process should include those planning’s and procedures for a particular period to allocate such resources and tools to cope these communities out of this situation (Stramrud, 2017). Without knowing exactly what is the main reason/s behind such mental problems of these communities, allocating tools and resources will not produce optimum results, thus it is the best interest of the states of Australia to include an advocacy system of planning and policymaking to make aware these communities about what the government is thinking of them and then to allocate the resources to cope them up with the problem and work on the feedback for the next policy. 

Stramrud (2017) says advocacy planning was made to defend communities against destruction with the help of urban renewal schemes. While the philosophical roots of advocacy planning can b traced back to the period of enlightenment and liberal economics, it was an innovation in the period of 1960s by Davidoff, which is the result of the direct engagement of the urban planners in the civil rights movement, which was the struggle against the displacement of the low-income communities by the hands of the federal urban renewal plans and scheme, it can also stem its roots from opportunities for the innovation which was fought by the federal war on poverty. Thus the roots of advocacy planning itself were made to of the needs of the downtrodden against the atrocities of the richer class and the state, thus this planning process can better plan the suicidal problems specifically for the outer areas and agricultural residential areas, especially out of the major cities. But the other part of the problem lies in the fact that advocacy planning alone cannot get Australia rid of the problem of suicides as this is not only associated with the downtrodden and the poor but also it is to be noted that the major cities are also suffering from this mental ill health, thus other factors are also needed to be traced in order to fully cure this problem, however for the sake of this essay which has concentrated especially on the outer areas and remote communities the advocacy planning can be a great tool which can make changes equivalent to wonders (Government of South Australia, n.d.). These changes which were lacking in the previous policies of the national and the states' mental health and well-being programs can fill the gaps in the comprehensiveness and the coordination which was a problem hitherto. Data and the trends in the suicides in the country can change over time, but the fundamental and basic problems related to it will be the same, thus these fundamental needs needed to be included in the policy arena with advocacy planning procedure.

Conclusion on Suicide Prevention in Australia

Prevention of suicide is everyone’s business and that is why an all-encompassing policy and trends are needed in order to get Australia rid of the thinking of suicidal thoughts. These policies will need a priority in the three areas viz, making people a priority, empowering the communities, and translating the evidence into practice. As the suicide of a person at least affects to 5 people with their thought process and productivity regarding the profession and services towards the community, it can be said that each suicide and prevention of suicide has a positive and negative feedback mechanism for the whole community in particular and for the country in general. Till now it has been said that Australia’s suicide prevention plans remain generally misdirected as the exact source of the mental behavior is still not known, as it is seen that the suicidal tendencies among the youth in the middle period of the last 20 years started to decline and then again increased, still the cause of this fluctuation is not known. Thus to add the approach of advocacy planning will throw light on the precise needs and tools which are needed by the community and the behavior which incites people for suicidal thought and then to coordinate and comprehend the policies against the mental illness will better hit the target.

References for Suicide Prevention in Australia

Christensen, H. (2016). Suicide prevention in australia: where to from here highlights. InPsych 38 (1). Retrieved from https://psychology.org.au/inpsych/2016/feb/christensen

Georgatos, G. (2018). Australia’s ‘suicide prevention plan’ is barely worth the name. Retrieved from policyforum.net/australias-suicide-prevention-plan-is-barely-worth-the-name/

Government of South Australia (n.d.). South australian suicide prevention plan 2017-2021. Retrieved from https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/about+us/publications+and+resources/plans/south+australian+suicide+prevention+plan+2017-2021

Bishop, L., Ransom, A., Laverty, M., & Gale, L. (2017). Mental health in remote and rural communities. Canberra: Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.

Kinchin, I. & Doran, C. (2018). The cost of youth suicide in australia. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 15 (4), 672.

Fitzpatrick, S., Brew, B., Read, D., Inder, K., Hayes, A. & Perkins, D. (2019). Rethinking suicide in rural australia: a study protocol for examining and applying knowledge of the social determinants to improve prevention in non-indigenous populations. Int J Environ Res Public Health.16(16), 2944.

Cooke, J. (2020). Suicide in rural and remote australia: mental health strategies cannot effectively operate in isolation. Retrieved from https://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/suicide-in-rural-and-remote-australia-mental-health-strategies-cannot-effectively-operate-in-isolation/

OECD (2017). CO4.4: Teenage suicides (15-19 years old). Retrieved from www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm

Stramrud, L. (2017). Rational planning and advocacy planning: a comparative essay. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.23060.55681

Planning Tank (2015). Advocacy planning concept. Retrieved from https://planningtank.com/planning-theory/advocacy-planning-concept

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