23 Oct 2020
The National Mental Health Commission (the Commission) today acknowledged the serious and sobering causes of death data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 2019.
The Commission’s Chair, Mrs Lucy Brogden AM, said today we learned that 3,318 Australians died by suicide last year in 2019 - this equates to the loss of nine Australians every day.
“Suicide prevention is a key priority for the Commission and for the Government. Every life lost to suicide is important so it is critical that we continue to work on getting high quality, accurate and timely data about suicide and suicide attempts,” said Mrs Brogden AM.
“It is truly upsetting that our suicide rates have stayed stubbornly high over the past decade, and fluctuated up and down over the past 5 years.
“This year’s data continued a worrying trend of older Australians being over represented by suicide deaths, and well as the truly shocking number of children who died by suicide as well. A total of 96 children and young people under the age of 17 died by suicide in 2019 (similar to the 100 in 2018) - 19 of these were children 14 years or younger.
“We continue to see too many men dying by suicide. Male suicides still make up three-quarters of all suicides – but we have seen increasing trends over the past 10 years for females in some age groups.
“The Commission is committed to working towards zero suicide deaths, and to reducing the significance of suicide ideation, risk and intentional self-harm. This is a national priority,” Mrs Brogden AM said.
National Mental Health Commission CEO Christine Morgan noted that although there was a modest reduction in suicide deaths in 2018, the 2019 rate is similar to the historic rates we have seen across the past decade.
“Every community across Australia is impacted by suicide. We have seen increases in numbers of suicide deaths recorded between 2018 and 2019 for all states except Queensland, with the highest increase occurring in Tasmania,” said Ms Morgan.
“No age group is untouched by suicide, and sadly with every person we lose to suicide there is a ripple effect. Meaning that in 2019 over 447,930 people were exposed to suicide as a family member, friend, colleague, team mate, first-responder, neighbour or treating professional.
“Suicide is still the leading cause of death for young people but more than half of all deaths occur during mid-life – so we need to make sure we target our approach across age groups.
“Access to affordable and effective mental health services is critical for suicide prevention. However, it is not sufficient in and of itself. Attention must also be given to other factors that contribute to suicidal behaviour - financial distress, relationship breakdown, housing insecurity, childhood adversity, discrimination, and over use of alcohol and other drug to manage stress,” said Ms Morgan.
“We also need a culture shift so the onus is not on the individual to put their hand up and ask for help, but capacity is being built for a range of service systems and individuals to offer support to those in need,” Ms Morgan said.
The Commission has and will continue to closely monitor mental health and suicide risk in every community, working closely with all jurisdictions, researchers and services to access quality and timely data.
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