The number of Australians who took their own lives exceeded 3,000 last year for the first time, new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) have revealed.
This was up 5.4 per cent from total of 2,864 in 2014. The figures also show that deaths from self-harm are three times more common for males than females, but the number of women who end their lives is rising.
“We have seen a 26 per cent increase in the suicide rates among women and the numbers of suicides among women (rise) over the last five-year period,” the chief executive of Suicide Prevention Australia, Sue Murray, told ABC News.
“We don’t know why this is occurring, so we really need to see the government come on board with investment in research, so we can really understand what it is that is bringing about this increase and the way in which [women] are choosing to take their own lives.”
The ABS statistics also reveal that the number of teenage girls who die by suicide has risen. In 2015, 56 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 ended their lives, up from 38 in 2014.
“The numbers are not large but certainly the fact that it is a 45 per cent increase in a one-year period certainly needs good investigation,” Ms Murray said. “I think we need to be looking very carefully at the type of suicide prevention programs we’re delivering.”
SANE Australia, a national charity set up to help Australians affected by mental illness, provides a number of guides for resources for families, friends and others caring for someone with a mental illness. This includes information on how to have a conversation with someone at risk of suicide, how to identify your concerns, how to listen to their response, and when to seek help.
The common myth that talking about suicide increases the risk of suicide, but this is a myth that can prevent a crucial discussion. Rather than putting the idea into someone’s head, having an open and supportive conversation gives them the opportunity to talk about their distress.
“Showing that you are open and willing to listen helps the person not to feel ashamed. Remaining calm and non-judgmental allows them to express their distress, perhaps for the first time, and still feel accepted (many people fear they won’t be).
“It can be tempting to offer solutions at this point, but don’t jump to problem-solving – it is more valuable to validate the person’s feelings. Emphasising that you believe it is important to talk about their thoughts of suicide demonstrates that you care and are taking their experiences seriously.”
ABS figures reveal:
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44
- 3,027 suicide deaths in 2015 — up 5.4 per cent from total of 2,864 in 2014
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are twice as likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous people with 152 deaths by suicide in 2015, up from 143 in 2014
- Highest rate of suicide reported in 2015 was men in 85+ age group with 68 deaths
- All states except South Australia reported a stable or rising rate of suicide deaths in 2015
Where to get help
If you are experiencing or have experienced suicidal thoughts, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
• Talk to your doctor. They will be able to assess your situation and offer expert advice, treatment and support.
• The 24-hour crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14.
• An online crisis support chat service is available for people feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty coping or staying safe. It is available from 7pm to 4am (AEST), seven days a week via lifeline.org.au. The website also has an online directory of free or low-cost health and community services in Australia.
• The mental health website beyondblue.org.au provides information and support for people dealing with anxiety, depression or suicide.
• The Suicide Callback service is on 1300 659 467.
• The World Health Organisation has a useful video called “I had a black dog, his name was depression”. Search YouTube for “black dog WHO”.
• moodgym.com.au is a free online programme, which teaches users cognitive behaviour therapy skills for preventing and coping with depression.
• If it’s an emergency, dial 000.