Australian suicide rates increased in 2017

26 September 2018

New preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that the national suicide rate increased over 12 months, from 11.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2016 to 12.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, exceeding the World Health Organisation’s global average suicide mortality rate of 10.5 deaths per 100,000.

Causes of Death Australia, 2017 reports on the causes of 160,909 deaths registered in 2017. Preliminary data contained in the report found 3128 people died by suicide in 2017, 2348 males and 780 females. That’s about 8.6 suicides a day and 9.1% more than 2016, when there was a total of 2866 deaths by suicide.

“People who die by suicide are more than a number, they’re members of our community and we’d like to acknowledge everyone who’s been impacted by suicide in 2017,” said the CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia, Nieves Murray.

“Unfortunately what these numbers show is that suicide is a growing public health concern for all Australians.

“We must use this data to strengthen our resolve. To each take personal responsibility for preventing suicide. By speaking up when we suspect someone is struggling. By supporting people with lived experience of suicide and those working at the front line of suicide prevention and crisis support.

“As hopeless as these numbers seem, there is hope. There’s thousands of Australians working collaboratively together, in governments, in suicide prevention, in health care, in work places, in schools and communities.

“Together we can achieve a meaningful reduction in suicide in Australia,” she said.

Ms Murray said that working collaboratively to prevent suicide is particularly important when supporting people living with a complex mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction. Causes of Death, Australia 2017 reported comorbidity data for the first time.

“Preliminary data showed that 43% of people who died by suicide in 2017 were living with a mood disorder like depression, 29.5% with a drug and alcohol use disorder, and 17.5% with anxiety,” she said.

“From previous research we know that people living with a complex mental illness are 13-45 times more likely to take their own life their own life than those living without mental illness.

“That’s why it’s so important that the mental health and suicide prevention sectors work together.”

Suicide Prevention Australia and SANE Australia recently released a joint Position Statement on Mental Illness and Suicide Prevention. Ms Murray says that in addition to collaborating on policy, the mental health and suicide prevention sectors are developing and implementing innovative programs and services to prevent more avoidable deaths, like LifeSpan.

“Delivered by the Black Dog Institute, LifeSpan is an evidence-based approach to integrated suicide prevention that’s predicted to prevent 21% of suicide deaths and 30% of suicide attempts,” she said.

“The reasons why people die by suicide are varied and complex, so to prevent it we need flexible, scalable solutions that account for this diversity.”

Comprehensive LifeSpan research trials are being conducted at four sites with funding from the Paul Ramsay Foundation, and the Institute’s supporting 12 Primary Health Networks participating in National Suicide Prevention Trials funded by the Department of Health.  The trials empower PHNs to deliver evidence-based interventions in their local communities.

Ms Murray welcomed today’s announcement that the Australian Government will invest more than $36 million in national suicide prevention projects to raise awareness of the impact of suicide and to support Australians who may be at risk.

“Suicide Prevention Australia looks forward to continuing to play a leadership role by supporting, collaborating with and advocating for the suicide prevention sector,” she said.

“Importantly, this funding will enable SPA Members to continue working closely with Australian workplaces, families, schools and communities to learn from people with lived experience and share suicide prevention tools.”

Ms Murray said empowering people everywhere to talk safely about suicide is one of the most effective ways to prevent it. The #YouCanTalk campaign and the National Communications Charter were developed by some of Australia’s leading mental health and suicide prevention organisations.

“To reduce suicide rates in Australia we need everyone to talk safely about suicide every day. We want people to know, you can talk about suicide and we’re here to help,” she said.

Go to www.lifeinmindaustralia.com.au for help talking about suicide, and to read and sign the National Communications Charter.

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.

Media enquiries: Frances Wood 0404 184 175 media@suicidepreventionaust.org

Help to report about suicide safely is available online: Go to www.mindframe-media.info