POLITICS

Liberal MP Julian Leeser Opens Up About Father's Suicide In Powerful Maiden Speech

The House of Reps was silent, and then united in applause.

14/09/2016 7:24 PM AEST | Updated 15/09/2016 1:11 PM AEST
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Liberal MP Julian Leeser had the House of Representatives united in applause on Wednesday evening as he retold the heartbreaking moments following his father's suicide, pledging to spend his time in Parliament advocating for mental health reform.

The speech went beyond calling for more government funding, calling instead for social reform led by the government, which struck a chord with every politician in the room.

At the tender age of 20, Leeser heard the sound of his mother's footsteps walking down the hall recognisably faster than they usually did.

Then she threw open the door and told him his dad was gone.

"I got up from my bed to comfort my mum, trying to calm her. I went down the hall to my father's office, where he worked late into the night for his clients," the Member for Berowra told the chamber on Wednesday.

"There I found his pyjamas in a pile and on the glass-topped table in the hall, was a note, like so many of the notes from my father, written in red pen on the back of a used envelope.

"It said, simply: 'I am sorry Sylvia. I just can't cope, love, John'."

The car was also gone and later police would inform Leeser his father had been found at the bottom of The Gap in Sydney.

The New South Wales MP said the past two decades of government spending in the mental health sector simply hasn't worked, but discourse in the community will.

Leeser was simply walking the walk on Wednesday night as his deeply personal story became national history, re-sparking the debate around an issue brought into the spotlight last week with RUOK? Day.

"Suicide -- they say -- is a victimless crime, but they never count the loved ones left behind," Leeser said.

"Treating depression as 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.

"There is a role for government in supporting organisations and individuals that reach out to the socially isolated in our community, even in the face of continued rejection.

"And there is a role for government in fostering innovative solutions to suicide prevention, depression and mental health -- enabling communities to learn from what has worked for others and connecting those efforts across our country."

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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