The latest release from the ABS sees for the first time the inclusion of data on the suicide of children and young people under the age of 15 years. The figures released show that 53 deaths by suicide occurred in this age group in the period 2007 to 2011.
“Sadly we know from work done at the state level by the Queensland Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardians (CCYPCG) that these figures could be even higher,” said Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) CEO Sue Murray.
The addition of this information to the Causes of Death report was a recommendation made in the 2009/2010 report of the Senate Inquiry into Suicide in Australia. SPA along with other key stakeholders working in suicide prevention, supported this recommendation and believe that the inclusion of data on child deaths by suicide will provide insights into the risk factors contributing to suicide, allow for the targeting of prevention programs and inform appropriate allocation of resources.
The challenges around accurately capturing information on suicide deaths is an issue that the sector is seeking to improve through the National Committee for Standardised Reporting on Suicide (NCSRS). Stigma, unclear guidelines, delays in coronial processes and differences in state and territory laws can mean suicides go unreported, and in this way the data should still be interpreted with caution.
SPA would like to acknowledge the consultation process the ABS implemented in preparation for this release, particularly around efforts to be considerate of the sensitive nature of reporting the deaths of young people and children. Included within the consultation, SPA-led group, the NCSRS support the approach taken by the ABS in publishing the data and are keen to see ongoing improvements in the quality and availability of suicide mortality and suicide attempt data.
On a broader scale, the statistics on suicide deaths in Australia shows there is no case for complacency: the need for focused attention on suicide remains with 2,272 deaths recorded in 2011. This shows that over the past five years, suicide deaths have remained in the range of 2,100-2,200 each year.
Suicide accounts for more than one in five deaths of younger Australians: for males between 15-34 years of age, and for females between 15-24 years of age. Males continue to be disproportionally represented in suicide statistics with four out of five suicides being men.
SPA acknowledges the grief and loss felt by those bereaved by suicide as well as the suffering and pain experienced by those who attempt or think about suicide.
“All suicide deaths are tragic and the death of a child by suicide especially can leave one at a loss for words. We urge the community to compassionately support to those impacted by suicide and to foster strong social connections to build well being,” said Sue Murray.
SPA recommends that reporting on suicide be in line with the Mindframe guidelines.