Skip to content
HIMH Logo
Legs

Hunter Institute response to latest ABS suicide data release

28 September 2016

Today’s early release of suicide statistics for 2015 indicate that there is not a more important time for us to come together and renew our commitment to suicide prevention than now – as individuals, as services, as communities and as governments across Australia. 

Earlier today, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the Causes of Death data for 2015, including the official suicide death data for Australia.  This was earlier than expected, but the news was far from good.

The data for 2015 indicated that 3,027 people died by suicide, the first time the numbers have reached over 3,000. This now equates to over 8 people per day in Australia.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the figures and associated impacts are even worse with the data indicating they are twice as likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous Australians, with concerning rates in younger age groups. 

Hunter Institute of Mental Health Director Jaelea Skehan says we need to remember that behind the data released today are people, families and communities. Many of whom have been struggling with the impact of multiple losses.

"When looking for trends in the data, it is important to look at rates rather than numbers. But, with the number of suicide deaths now over 3,000 per year that represents a distressing number of individuals, families and communities impacted by suicide each year in Australia.

“We know from recent research conducted by Suicide Prevention Australia that many Australians have been impacted by suicide, with the ongoing effect of each death or suicide attempt affecting many lives for many years.”

While rates are still lower than our last national peak in 1997, we have seen an increase in suicide rates and numbers of deaths, over the past three years.

Earlier this year, data released by the ABS revealed that following a 10 year period of little change, rates of suicide had increase between 2013 and 2014. We have seen that upward trend continue with data released today indicating another increase in rates when comparing data from 2014 and 2015.

“The figures should not sit well with anyone and highlight the need for not only reform, but more resources in suicide prevention."

Jaelea Skehan, Director, Hunter Institute of Mental Health

Ms Skehan also highlighted the data is a reminder that suicide is an issue which affects all age groups and the need to work across the life span.

“We have had a lot of focus and attention on youth suicide in this country, which is always important, but the 2014 and 2015 data released today is a reminder that suicide prevention activity across the lifespan needs to be prioritised, with the highest rates of suicide being in men over 85 years followed by men in their 30s, 40s and 50s.”

The data released today supports the sector and community call for more investment, more collaboration and more commitment to change in suicide prevention said Jaelea Skehan.

“The figures should not sit well with anyone and highlight the need for not only reform, but more resources in suicide prevention."

Ms Skehan says we need to think about a comprehensive approach and not just a service-only response or a community-only approach, and that both need to be funded and both need to work together.

“We need to collaborate to get the balance right between implementing what we know works and supporting innovation so that we can reach more people in more ways.

“There has been a lot of good work happening with a great range of national and state-based suicide prevention services operating in Australia. With direction from the National Mental Commissions Review, the Australian Government have committed to investing in a 5-10 year plan to improve reach and capacity at a local, regional and national level for suicide prevention services.

“But we need to ensure we have the best possible planning in place and enough funding to support an investment in the prevention of suicide and our front-line services. What the community needs and deserves is a commitment that all levels of government, the not-for profit sector and front-line services will work better and work together over the next decade to turn things around again,” she said.

Mindframe National Media Initiative Manager Marc Bryant says it is essential that we talk about suicide and its impacts but we need to ensure the conversations are safe, helpful and informed. 

“It is really important as we have these national debates and conversations online, and in the media today, that we do so in a safe and responsible way. This will provide an opportunity to foster conversations that empower people to respond to those who are vulnerable and encourage them to reach out, which can also break down stigma, particularly among men, so that they reach out for help early.

“Online resources such as Conversations Matter have been developed to help guide professionals and communities in having these difficult conversations, to ensure that people feel supported to have safe and effective discussions about suicide,” Marc said.

With over 3,000 people per year dying by suicide and hundreds of thousands of people further affected each year, the Hunter Institute of Mental Health stands with other organisations in the mental health and suicide prevention sectors committing to do things differently. We also dedicate ourselves to working in partnership and build the capabilities of others so our work can have a positive impact on more people, now and in the future.
The human and societal costs behind the recent released figures indicate that the time for change is now.

For information about today’s ABS release and Mindframe advice on reporting suicide, please visit http://bit.ly/1LNmVtv  

For support 24/7 contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467. 

For more information and practical tips on how to talk about suicide visit www.conversationsmatter.com.au