New data from the Suicide Prevention Australia Community Tracker part III released today revealed almost one in four (22%) Australians surveyed report having experienced suicidal behaviour in the past 12 months.
This includes one in six (16%) people that have had serious thoughts of suicide, 4% that have made a suicide plan and almost 2% that have attempted suicide.
Men are more likely than women to report having experienced suicidal behaviour in the past 12 months (27% compared to 16%), as well as more likely than women to have had serious thoughts of suicide (19% compared to 12%) and three times more likely to have made a suicide plan (6% compared to 2%).
This coincides with data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which recently confirmed suspected suicide rates in Victoria are at a five year high and in New South Wales there has been an 8% increase in suicides from January to October 2022 compared to the same time in 2021.
The tracker also shows that people are reaching out for help – 26% of Australians visited, sought help or searched for advice from a suicide prevention service in the last 12 months. This was primarily driven by Australians aged 25-34 – with almost half (47%) reaching out for support.
Furthermore, 83% of those that report having experienced suicidal behaviour in the past 12 months have also visited, sought help or searched for advice from a suicide prevention service.
Rising rates of suicidal behaviour aligns with research on natural disasters, recessions and other crises that show suicide rates can peak two to three years after an event.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray, said “It’s clear from this data that people are struggling. Fortunately, many Australians are reaching out for help.
“We know 88% of frontline suicide prevention services experienced increased demand in the past 12 months. Lifeline also confirmed late last year that call numbers have increased substantially and that they were preparing for some of the busiest weeks in their history around Christmas.
“We are urgently calling for a multi-million dollar “relief package” to help the sector keep up with millions of calls for help, online searches and sessions. This should also provide transitional support and address immediate service and workforce needs until Better Access reforms are delivered.
“It’s critically important that we are able to provide timely support when and where people need it most.
“The decision to cut additional Medicare funded mental health sessions risks withdrawing support from people at a time they need it most.
“As we enter the new year, we need more funding for mental health and suicide prevention, not less.
“At the very least, the slashed Better Access funds need to be urgently redirected to crisis and support lines and building workforce capacity to deal with the ongoing high demand for services.
“While the upcoming Mental Health Equity and Access Forum with Health Minister Mark Butler is an important opportunity to discuss improvements to Better Access – action needs to be taken now to prevent any further increases in suicide rates.
“It’s critical Australians in distress have a safety net. Winding back access to help in these uncertain economic and social times risks undoing decades of good work,” said Ms Murray.
Mark Davis, Suicide Prevention Australia Lived Experience Panel Member said although reaching out for help is challenging, it’s important to know that support is available.
“Even if you’re convinced in your own mind that there isn’t any help – it’s not just you, there are other people out in the world who can help. You can get there. Help is the first step – which is the hardest. But once you start, it’s a lot easier than you would expect. I know that as soon as I opened up, I felt a great weight had been lifted off and I was no longer alone in isolation.
Part I of the Suicide Prevention Australia Community Tracker released in early December revealed 71% of Australians reported experiencing elevated distress in November 2022 compared with the same time last year.
Cost-of-living and personal debt remained the number one issue driving this elevated distress in November 2022 for the second quarter running (41%), while family and relationship breakdown (25%) climbed one place into second spot (+2%) compared with August 2022. Social isolation and loneliness (24%) was ranked third.
National distress over housing access and affordability had grown faster than all other causes of distress – particularly amongst “middle age and middle wage” Australians.
“Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and the impact spreads across families, schools, workplaces, sporting clubs and community groups. For those feeling distress, help is available and it’s important to reach out and seek support,” said Ms Murray.
The Suicide Prevention Australia Community Tracker is undertaken in partnership with YouGov plc. Total sample size was 1022 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9th -13th November 2022. The survey was completed online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+).
To get help 24/7, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, phone 000 for emergency services.
Help to report about suicide safely is available online: Go to https://mindframe.org.au/
Amelia Hew 0410 591 134 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Suicide Prevention Australia
Suicide Prevention Australia is the national peak body and we’ve been providing support for Australia’s suicide prevention sector for more than 25 years. We support and advocate for our members to drive continual improvement in suicide prevention policy, programs and services. Our reach is broad, including member organisations, governments, businesses, researchers, practitioners and those with lived experience. We are focused on an integrated approach to suicide prevention encompassing mental health, social, economic and community factors. We believe that through collaborative effort and shared purpose, we can achieve our vision of a world without suicide.