New data shows national distress over housing access and affordability has grown faster than all other causes of distress over the past three months – particularly amongst “middle age and middle wage” Australians – as cost-of-living and personal debt continues to pose the biggest threat to the nation’s mental health and suicide rates.
The findings coincide with more-than one-in-three (38%) Australians saying they know someone in their personal life or networks, who has died by or attempted suicide in the past 12 months – a 7% increase on August (31%).
Suicide Prevention Australia today called on the Albanese Government for an urgent ‘relief package’ to respond to increasing rates of distress and risks of suicide.
A distress relief package would include fast-tracking delivery of recent commitments to suicide prevention services; additional support for those most at-risk of suicide; extended access to COVID-19 mental health supports such as Medicare’s funded mental health sessions; strengthened investment in protective supports such as raising income support payments and whole-of-government accountability through a national Suicide Prevention Act.
Today marks the official launch of the quarterly Suicide Prevention Australia Community Tracker, which increases the frequency of the peak body’s annual community survey into a timely health check on the social and economic issues driving distress – and subsequent suicide risk – in Australia.
- Overall, 71% of Australians reported experiencing elevated distress in November 2022 compared with the same time last year – a 1% increase on the previous quarter (August 2022).
- Cost-of-living and personal debt remained the number one issue driving this elevated distress in November 2022 for the second quarter running (41%) – also up 1%, 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.
- However, it was distress over housing access and affordability (22%) that escalated the most amongst Australians over the past three months (+5%) – overtaking unemployment and job security to enter the top five.
- This was primarily driven by elevated housing distress amongst Australians aged 25-34 (28%, +6%) and 35-49 (28%, +9%) the past three months, as well as Australians earning $100-$149k per year (21%, +7%) and households with children (under 18) at home (25%; +6%).
- This coincided with cost-of-living and personal debt distress also growing well-above average in all of these demographics over the same period.
The Reserve Bank of Australia raised interest rates a further 0.25% percentage point last week, making it the highest in 10 years. While inflation was 7% higher in the September quarter compared with the year before.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray said, “It’s clear from this data that suicide does not discriminate. Sadly, it too often touches a significant number of Australians in all corners of our community.
“It also reiterates the importance of the government focusing on improving housing supply and affordability, as this is clearly causing many Australians elevated distress.
“Fortunately, many Australians are reaching out for help. We know 88% of frontline suicide prevention services experienced increased demand the past 12 months. Australians are heeding the call to seek help. It’s therefore important that we are able to provide timely support when and where they need it most. A “relief package” will help our members do this.
“Our findings once again prove the clear link between the impact of rising economic and social pressures and distress levels in the community.
“Research shows suicide rates can peak two to three years after a crisis. We need to act now to address increasing rates of distress and respond to the risk of increasing suicide rates in our community.
“Indications from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System point to a steady increase in suicides this year in NSW and Victoria.
“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.”
The Suicide Prevention Australia Community Tracker will also seek to provide more timely policy insights and input to help governments meet rising demand and minimise future suicide rates and risk.
Since introducing the 2006 Basic Act for Suicide Prevention, Japan’s suicide deaths have fallen by about 40 percent over the past 15 years, while the number of suicides nationwide hit a 40-year low in 2019.
Suicide Prevention Australia recently joined with over 40 prominent organisations and individuals – including RUOK?, yourtown, Wesley Mission, ReachOut, Mates in Construction and batyr – in an open letter delivered to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and all 227 MPs and Senators calling for a National Suicide Prevention Act to be delivered now. The Australian public (79%) also support this call.
South Australians showed the strongest support of the five mainland states, following their state government introducing a Suicide Prevention Act in the past 12 months. The NSW Labor Opposition has promised to introduce such an Act if it wins the 2023 state election.
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.
Source: 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+).
Clare Kinsella 0427 689 689 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Amelia Hew 0410 591 134 or email@example.com
Help to report about suicide safely is available online: Go to https://mindframe.org.au/
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.