Distress in communities across the country is mounting with one in four Australians reporting to know someone who died by or attempted suicide in the past 12 months.
Key drivers of distress include social isolation, the economy and jobs, particularly amongst women.
It comes as two-thirds of Australians (66%) back the Federal Government introducing a standalone national suicide prevention act requiring all government decisions to consider and mitigate suicide risks two years in a row.
The findings are from Suicide Prevention Australia’s second State of the Nation report, which will be officially released next week on World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 (Friday, 10 September).
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray said, “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.
“Every life lost to suicide is heartbreaking. It’s important to remember that every statistic represents a life lost and a cascade of grief amongst family, friends, schools, workplaces and community groups.
“History showed major increases in suicide were linked to major social and economic events* and there was none more concerning facing Australia than right now.
Ms Murray said legislation was the best prevention against rising distress, particularly given the major government decisions about economic, employee and welfare to support Australia’s COVID-repair and recovery.
“Australia needs a national Suicide Prevention Act and we need to act now.
“We all have a role to play in preventing suicide. An Act will legislate a whole-of-government priority to prevent suicide and focus the attention of every agency to address the risk of suicide across our community.
“Fortunately, despite a rise in demand for helplines and mental health services, the AIHW’s National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System shows the numbers of suspected deaths by suicide in 2020 were similar to those in previous years.
“The suicide prevention sector is working together to ensure the evolving needs of the community are being addressed during this time. As a sector, we are doing our best to ensure people have access to safe, effective support services and are continuing to find alternative solutions such as peer-led, digital and community-led initiatives.
“Suicide prevention isn’t limited to health portfolios. Housing is suicide prevention, employment is suicide prevention, finance is suicide prevention, and education is suicide prevention.
“We know social and economic isolation are the biggest drivers of distress and COVID-19 has seen Australians subject to 18 months of rolling lockdowns and disruption to their personal lives, employment and businesses.
“We’ve seen how quickly COVID-19 cases can get out of hand and we need to have the same national policy focus and vigilance to stop suicide rates doing the same.
“The fact an overwhelming majority of Australians support this low-cost, low-risk, low-impact, high-outcome option should be the green light the Federal Government needs.
“The heightened economic and social threat posed by COVID-19 means we cannot afford to wait to legislate,” said Ms Murray.
“It’s important to remember that 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.
“Help-seeking pathways extend beyond calling a support line or meeting with a counsellor. There are now texting services, downloadable resources and online community forums,” said Ms Murray.
*According to the Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Health & Welfare: “While an individual’s reasons are personal and often complex, overall peaks and troughs in rates and numbers of deaths by suicide coincide— more or less—with social and economic events.”
- In the past year, one in four (25%) Australians say they know someone in their personal life or networks, who has died by or attempted suicide either directly (15%) or indirectly (11%).
- More than one in four (27%) Australians say they have ever directly (16%) or indirectly (16%) sought help or searched for advice from a suicide prevention service in the past 12 months.
- Australians believe that the people most at risk of suicide over the next 12 months are young people 12-25 years (42%), middle-aged Australians 25-55 years (29%) and men (29%).
- Other groups thought to be most at risk include Australians living in regional and rural areas (24%), LGBTQI Australians (21%), Indigenous Australians (18%) and older Australians 55+ years (18%).
- Two thirds (67%) of Australians agree that all Government decisions should consider the risk of suicide and have clear plans in place to mitigate any negative impacts following from the decision while just 10% disagree.
- Two thirds (66%) of Australians agree, when advised of successes achieved by similar legislation in Japan, that Australia should introduce a standalone Suicide Prevention Act similar to Japan, that looks to take a whole-of-government and not just a health approach to suicide prevention. Of the remainder just 8% disagree with this sentiment.
|The biggest risk to suicide rates over the next 12 months?|
|Social isolation and loneliness||64%||58%||70%|
|Unemployment & job security||58%||53%||64%|
|Family and relationship breakdowns||57%||52%||62%|
|Cost of living and personal debt||55%||50%||61%|
|Drugs and alcohol||53%||50%||56%|
About the survey
The 2021 Suicide Prevention Australia State of the Nation report is an annual suicide prevention and mental health sector survey, which will be officially released on World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September 2021).
It also includes public survey results commissioned by Suicide Prevention Australia from YouGov plc. Total sample size was 1049 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th – 22nd August 2021. The survey was completed online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+).
Help to report about suicide safely is available online: Go to www.mindframe-media.info
Clare Kinsella 0427 689 689 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Amelia Banks 0410 591 134 or email@example.com
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.