Almost half of all Australians (46%) are now reporting elevated distress from cost-of-living pressures – a significant increase (+5 points) on the December Quarter (41%). There are calls for today’s Reserve Bank Australia (RBA) board meeting to factor in the impact of rate rises on the nation’s “human, not just economic, wellbeing”.
Suicide Prevention Australia’s latest quarterly Community Tracker for the March Quarter 2023, released today, also shows further increases in distress in housing affordability (23%, +2 points) – and now unemployment (21%, +5 points), particularly amongst “middle-age, middle-wage” Australians.
Australians also ranked the top three risks to suicide rates increasing in the next 12 months as: cost-of-living and personal debt (69%, +4 points); housing access and affordability (53%, +4 points); and unemployment and job security (51%, +5 points), overtaking social isolation (51%) and relationship breakdown (51%).
It coincides with one-in-six (16%) of Australians reporting serious thoughts of suicide in the past 12 months.
The findings prompted Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray to urgently share them with the RBA and Federal Treasurer last week to add a “human face” to today’s rates decision and preparations for the upcoming Budget.
Victorian and New South Wales suicide registers respectively revealed last month a 9% and 5% increase in Australian’s taking their own life for the 2022 calendar year.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said reducing suicide rates would be a personal priority of his government at a Suicide Prevention Australia event in September 2022.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray said rising interest rates and suicide rates showed a national Suicide Prevention Act was critical, and called on the Federal Government to match the NSW Opposition’s promise to introduce a similar Act if elected in March.
Ms Murray also doubled-down on Suicide Prevention Australia’s request for an urgent federal funding boost for frontline suicide prevention services ahead of the Albanese Government’s “Wellbeing Budget” in May, particularly after cutting one million Medicare-funding mental health sessions without a replacement in place.
“Our findings once again prove the clear link between the impact of rising economic and social pressures and distress levels in the community.
“We’re deeply concerned about the impact that cost-of-living is having on Australians.
“Therefore, the upcoming Federal Budget in May falls at an incredibly important time for the wellbeing of Australians.
“We need urgent action from the Albanese Government to address rising rates of distress and suicide. It’s critical this budget deliver on commitments to mental health and suicide prevention,” said Ms Murray.
In the Federal Budget, Suicide Prevention Australia is calling for:
- A multi-million-dollar relief package to support frontline services and crisis lines who are directly dealing with people in suicidal crisis. This should also include $60-$100 million over one year to address immediate service and workforce needs until Better Access reforms are delivered.
- An additional $43 million over two years to support those most at-risk of suicide such as the LGBTIQ+ community, First Nations, men, and older people.
- $300,000 over one year to legislate whole-of-government transparency and accountability for suicide prevention through a Suicide Prevention Act.
“The Royal Commission into Robodebt has revealed the worst-case scenario when government fails to consider the human impact of policy decisions. We need clear accountability and action through a Suicide Prevention Act to prevent such tragedies ever happening again.
“About one-in-five Australians are reaching out for help. It’s positive people are heeding the message, but it’s also putting increased pressure on already stretched frontline suicide prevention services.
“The Treasurer has signaled his intent to pursue values-based capitalism. Ensuring the RBA and his budgets consider human – not just economic – wellbeing to prevent suicide rates rising further is a strong starting point.
“Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and the impact spreads across families, schools, workplace, sporting clubs and community groups. For those feeling distress, help is available and it’s important to reach out and seek support.
“When we are talking about suicide it’s important to remember that every number represents a human life and a cascade of grief and healing across the impacted communities,” said Ms Murray.
- Overall, almost three quarters of Australians (74%) reported experiencing elevated distress in February 2023 compared with the same time last year – a 3% increase on the previous quarter (November 2022).
- Cost-of-living and personal debt remained the number one issue driving this elevated distress in February 2023 for the third quarter running (46%) – also up 5%, while social isolation and loneliness (26%) regained second place (+2%) compared with November 2022. Family and relationship breakdowns (24%) fell one spot to third (-1%).
- Cost of living and personal debt (46%) and unemployment and job security (21%) escalated the most amongst Australians the past three months (+5%).
- Increased distress levels with respect to cost of living and personal debt was primarily driven by Australians aged 18-24 (58%, +13%) and 50-64 (48%, +11%) the past three months.
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.
The Suicide Prevention Australia Community Tracker is undertaken in partnership with YouGov plc. Total sample size was 1024 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th -22nd February 2023. The survey was completed online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+).
Help to report about suicide safely is available online: Go to https://mindframe.org.au/
Clare Kinsella 0427 689 689 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Amelia Hew 0410 591 134 or email@example.com