Modelling released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) revealed which socioeconomic factors had the strongest associations with deaths by suicide, helping shape the way services and programs are delivered in the community.
Some of the key risk factors that had the strongest associations with deaths by suicide included being widowed, divorced or separated, being not in the labour force or being unemployed, being in a lone person household and being male.
The AIHW used Census 2011 data that was linked with seven years of historical death, income and social security data to estimate the associated risks between socioeconomic factors and suicide.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray said, “The modelling confirms the impact social determinants such as income, education, employment and relationship breakdowns have on the risk of suicide.
“This is a glimpse of how data can save lives. With these insights, we can segment our approach to suicide prevention and reach vulnerable groups in a tailored and targeted way. The more we understand the groups who are most at risk of distress, the better equipped we are to intervene early,” said Ms Murray.
For example, the modelling found that people who worked as machinery operators and drivers or labourers were more likely to die by suicide compared with managers and professionals. This level of insight can inform a highly targeted approach and provides strong foundations for effective, early intervention.
The modelling also supports the need to address the risk of suicide through a whole-of-government approach and invest in protective supports in our community.
“Suicide is an incredibly complex, multi-factorial behaviour; it is not simply a mental health issue. The range of factors impacting suicide risk like adverse childhood experiences, alcohol and other drug use, intimate partner violence, family disruption, problems relating to legal circumstances, low educational attainment, lack of employment; shows the need for a whole-of-government approach.
“Governments need to continue 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.
“This modelling looks at some, though not all of the risk factors associated with suicide. It’s a valuable addition to the evidence-base in Australia though more needs to be considered in the broader context of research and evidence. There are also gaps in sourcing data around priority populations such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, culturally and linguistically diverse and LGBTQI communities.
“Monitoring the number, trends and rates of suicide in Australia is key to understanding who is at risk and for the planning and targeting of suicide prevention activities. There’s no doubt that having timely access to this data will improve the ability to intervene early and ultimately help to reduce the concerning ambulance and self-harm data we’re seeing,” said Ms Murray.
The AIHW also released data today on ambulance attendances for suicide and self-harm in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT. The data shows an increase in ambulance attendances for suicide ideation in much of Australia from 2018 to 2021. There have also been some increases in ambulance attendances for suicide attempts and self-injury.
“We know the past couple of years have been challenging for so many in our community. Our members have been busier than ever before, and this data confirms the increase in distress across the community.
“We need to keep supporting those at-risk in our community through early intervention, prevention and treatment.
“It’s important to remember that every statistic represents a life lost that has a cascading impact among families, friends, colleagues and community groups. Every life lost to suicide is heartbreaking.
“It’s also important to remember, you do not have to go this alone. Help is always available no matter who you are or what situation you are in. If you are feeling distress, please reach out and access the various support services that are available,” said Ms Murray.
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. If you have been bereaved or impacted by suicide, please call Standby on 1300 727 247.
0410 591 134
0427 689 689 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.