PM vows to boost suicide prevention measures at The Gap

Members of the public walk at the notorious suicide spot in Watsons Bay. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has pledged to fund the installation of high definition CCTV cameras and a police monitoring services at The Gap in a bid to combat suicide rates.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced funding for high definition CCTV cameras as a preventative measure at what he describes as one of the country's worst suicide spots.

Mr Turnbull announced $15,500 for the project at Gap Park, in Sydney's east, which will allow for more targeted intervention, connected to a workstation monitored by police and a dedicated room at the Rose Bay police station to carry out sensitive negotiations.

In a letter published in his local electorate's newspaper, The Wentworth Courier, Mr Turnbull said a suicide attempt is is often the act of desperation when a person has not received the help they needed.

As a result, the PM said it was a priority to invest efforts and money earlier in a "tragic timeline".

Mr Turnbull also praised the efforts of the late Don Ritchie, who lived in the area and was known as the Angel of Gap for saving many lives.

"As a nation we are talking more openly about mental illness and suicide because we recognise that we can’t solve problems that we refuse to acknowledge," Mr Turnbull said. 

"The more we talk about mental health and suicide, the more people are encouraged to seek help."

Rose Bay Local Area Commander Superintendent Brad Hodder said the cameras help in the search for people who have climbed the fence and allows police to monitor and record activity.

“It leaves no doubt as to why the person was there in the first place and assists us in the appropriate response to The Gap when we get a call,” he said.

“Needless to say it is a valuable investment for this command, which reduces investigation time and time spent looking for a potential person who is not in a position to help themselves.” 

A spokeswoman for Woollahra Council said the funding will upgrade the CCTV system which was first installed in 2010.

It will now have 38 cameras and allow police and emergency services to respond faster to incidents where people are about to harm themselves. 

She said a range of measures such as fencing, signage, easy and free help for counselling, and lighting and social spaces that encourage members of the public to stay longer to increase any chances of seeing someone at risk of self-harm have been put in place.

A virtual fence also detects any human movement on the cliff side of the fence, which in turn alerts police through an alarm.

Lifeline Research Foundation's executive director Alan Woodward said eight people in Australia take their own lives daily and the same number of people attempt to do so every hour.

"The person contemplating an end to their life does not necessarily want to die but experiences such pain and distress that they see no other way out."

He said the announcement is a welcome addition to a range of measures collaborations between different levels of government, police and organisations have worked on to put in place but there is a goal to make continual improvements to save lives.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Beyondblue on 1300 224 636, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467. 

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