Data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing an increase in deaths by suicide is tragic and sends a resounding message that more needs to be done to support vulnerable people in our communities.
3,318 Australians died by suicide in 2019, which is 12.9 deaths per 100,000 people. This represents an increase of around 6% compared with the 3,138 suicide deaths reported for 2018. That equates to 9.1 deaths per day compared to 8.6 deaths per day in recent years.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray said, “These figures are heartbreaking and unacceptable. Part of the solution is identifying those in distress before they reach crisis point and helping them find the right support.
“While the figures released today paint a sobering picture from 2019, we can’t underestimate the impact that the events of COVID19 is having today and into the future. COVID-19 has amplified the factors we know link with distress and suicide, including unemployment, housing insecurity and financial stress.
“Government needs to coordinate funding and build suicide prevention solutions into their policy decisions about issues as diverse as housing, employment, and helping people to build healthy social connections.
“International evidence shows the best way to achieve this is through a standalone National Suicide Prevention Office, supported by an Act that requires every part of government to consider suicide prevention in their funding and policy decisions.
“As we told the Productivity Commission, Australia needs to adopt this approach, pass a Suicide Prevention Act and set up a permanent National Suicide Prevention Office if we’re to see real change, commitment and accountability in suicide prevention.
“We need to see Government direct their efforts at tailoring the right training to every part of the suicide prevention workforce – not just the clinical workforce.
“People working in frontline Government roles, social services and community-based organisations like sports coaches, connect with people who might be vulnerable to distress and suicide every day.
“We need to see significant investment to train and upskill these ‘community connectors’ so they have the confidence to read the signs and link vulnerable people with support.
“There are many services and programs available and we need to ensure that everyone in distress gets access to them. Upskilling those working in the community helps to identify those in distress and direct them quickly to the right service – before they reach crisis point. It’s a practical and affordable solution that will make a difference.
“We have no time to lose and we are calling for immediate action to upskill our community workforce and reshape the system to drive down Australia’s suicide rate.
“There is no denying the Australian Government’s focus on suicide prevention. The Productivity Commission Inquiry into the Mental Health system, the ‘Towards Zero’ ambition for suicide rates in Australia, the appointment of a National Suicide Prevention Adviser and the Mental Health Royal Commission in Victoria for suicide prevention are all critical milestones.
“These are important steps but clearly it’s not enough.
“The ABS data highlights that suicide is complex and not just linked to mental health. Psychosocial risk factors were associated causes of death for 90% of suicides.
“Problems in spousal relationship circumstances was the most commonly mentioned psychosocial risk factor in deaths due to suicide,” said Ms Murray.
Other key findings include:
- Mood disorders, including depression, were identified for 40.6% of suicides.
- Substance use disorders (including intoxication) were reported in 30.6% of male suicides.
- Previous self-harm was reported in almost one-third (30.5%) of female suicides.
- Suicide was the leading cause of death among people aged 15-49.
“We can never underestimate the impact that every life lost to suicide has on family, friends, workplaces and the broader community,” said Ms Murray.