Report on Exposure to and Impact of Suicide in Australia to be released on World Suicide Prevention Day

4 September 2016

Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) in collaboration with the University of New England has conducted a national research project investigating the exposure to and impact of suicide in Australia. Preliminary results were presented at the National Suicide Prevention Conference 2016. The purpose of this survey was to gain a clearer understanding of how individuals are affected by suicide.

This will help inform where we recommend funds and expertise are directed in suicide prevention to support those affected by the devastating effect of pain suicide brings when it touches our lives. 

Many thanks to all who shared their very personal experiences as part of this research, we deeply value your time and contribution. The release of this research, along with this week being R U OK? Day (8 Sept) and WSPD (10 Sept), will mean we will see more talk of suicide and suicide prevention in the media. While it is so important that this issue is spoken about and the voices of lived experience are heard, it may bring up tough emotions, particularly for those of us touched by suicide, so please take care this week and talk to someone you trust about how you're feeling if you are struggling. For a comprehensive list of support services visit the Useful Contacts section on the Communities Matter website.

If you didn't get the chance to share your lived experience with us as part of this research but would like to contribute, please consider joining our Lived Experience Network. Find out more on our website. If you have any questions, send us an email.

‘Understanding Exposure to and Impact of Suicide in Australia’ report will be released on Saturday 10 September 2016. It will be made available on our website

Key points released so far prior to the formal release of the report include:

  • Suicide Prevention Australia partnered with the University of New England to better understand suicide from a broad public health perspective and what individuals, businesses, communities and government need to do to prevent it. That is, how Australians can proactively contribute to prevention.
  • This research gives voice to lived experiences and included responses from more than 3,200 Australians.
  • At present there is no way to measure the number of people affected by each suicide death, nor the way in which these events impact on those affected. Similarly, there is limited understanding of how people are affected by broader spectrum of suicidal behaviours such as attempts, plans and/or ideation.
  • From the late 1960’s there has been an estimate that six people are bereaved by each suicide death. This estimate was based on the knowledge of the time, and while lacking in evidence, it has become a standard measure in suicide prevention literature. Over the decades since, several researchers have attempted to quantify the number of people affected by each suicide death, with estimates ranging from 10 to 115. Recent unpublished research from the United States has shown that every suicide leaves 135 people exposed.
  • Australian findings indicate that more than 85% of respondents had been exposed to a suicide death and/or a suicide attempt.
  • When asked about the relationship with the person whose suicide death or attempt affected them most, respondents most commonly reported “friend”, followed by “brother”.
  • It is clear from our research that those touched by suicide are a highly distressed population in comparison to National Health Survey results.
  • Other results to be released as part of the full report include learnings on exposure, impact and relationships, impact and perceived closeness of relationships, impact and distress levels, access to support and services, supporting vulnerable groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander insights and commentary on what has helped and what remains a concern for our respondents.

To book an interview with the research team, SPA leadership team, the Lived Experience Network and SPA members, please contact Kim Borrowdale.  

To find out more about how you can be part of world suicide prevention day, visit