Australia’s rising suicide rate: how can we reverse the statistics?
THERE is more media coverage, awareness campaigns, resources and organisations attempting to tackle the complex topic of mental health than ever before, but our suicide rate is rising.
Australia’s rate is currently sitting at 12.9 per 100,000 which is above the World Health Organisation’s global average.
While the question of ‘why’ is almost impossible to answer, local mental health organisations are doing their best to pinpoint and prevent potential reasons behind the increasing statistic.
Lifeline Central West CEO Stephanie Robinson believes the rising rates are the result of a variety of reasons.
“Though we are more ‘connected’ than ever before as a society, we see a lot of disconnect and social isolation,” she told
“Males in particular do not often have the same support and connections and often withdraw rather than talk or seek help.”
Ms Robinson also said people need to understand that not everyone who dies by suicide has a mental health issue.
“We all have different levels of resilience, coping mechanisms and support networks as well as access to services.”
National Association for Loss And Grief CEO and Educator, Trudy Hanson, has no doubt the unprecedented dry spell in regional areas has been a factor too.
“Drought is having an impact and as small towns are losing services and access to mental health facilities, it has become problematic,” she said.
Ms Hanson also said that although “society is improving, there is still a stigma around mental health”.
Then comes the question of how to reverse this worryingly high rate.
With NALAG holding it’s Walk Towards Hope event for suicide prevention and awareness in Dubbo last weekend, and World Suicide Prevention Day (Tuesday) and R U OK Day (today) both falling this week, local mental health experts are pleading with the community to look out for one another and be aware of the signs which might suggest someone is struggling.
Ms Robinson said everyone has a responsibility in attempting to reverse the rising suicide statistics.
“So often the message is for those in distress to reach out and connect with help, but I would like to see the message be that it is all of the population’s concern, and that each and every one of us should be trained in suicide prevention. (Everyone should know) how to confidently respond so that people don’t miss, dismiss or avoid situations that just may save a life,” she said.
“They (victims of suicide) often need those that are in their lives to pick up on some of these signs and lead them to help.”
On top of education, Ms Robinson would like to see the government invest in Lifeline’s text service after a trial revealed that 43 per cent of people who used the service would not have called the 13 11 14 phone service, instead preferring to SMS.
Headspace Dubbo is also advocating for increased awareness, conceding that despite the many resources available, a lot of people don’t know where to turn.
“The more people who understand what it is, what the signs are and where to turn to for support, or (where to get help) to support a friend or loved one, the more we can work together to create mentally well communities,” Headspace Community and Youth Engagement Coordinator, Amy Mines, said.
“A lot of it comes down to education, something that needs to be taught in school from an early age.”
Headspace is constantly working on ways it can immerse itself within different pockets of the community to promote its work and services.
“We work closely with a lot of local businesses to help them support their staff,” Ms Mines said.
“We also visit a large number of schools in our region to support the students and teachers around mental health awareness and give tips for keeping a healthy headspace. “
In recent years, mental health topics have become more freely reported in mainstream media and included in movies and TV shows.
All media are subject to strict reporting guidelines when it comes to mental health, and while leaders in the space feel increased coverage is positive, they stress the importance of staying within the set parameters.
Ms Robinson said media reports should focus on hope and connection and be delivered with sensitivity and integrity.
“The media has gotten better about bringing awareness to the subject,” she said.
“I for one am glad we talk about it, as not talking about it just doesn’t make sense, and I think some shows or movies have done a good job at demystifying it (mental health and suicide). However, again, it is how it is used.”
If you or anyone you know needs help:
z Lifeline on 13 11 14
z Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
z Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978
z Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
z Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
z Headspace on 1800 650 890
z Reachout at au.reachout.com