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A drop in the national suicide rate has come amid “critical” calls for the mental health sector to ensure every Australian has appropriate access to support services.
Figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found 2866 people took their lives in 2016, compared to 3027 people in 2015 – or a decrease from 12.7 to 11.7 per 100,000 Australians.
With an average of 7.9 deaths by suicide in Australia each day, suicide accounted for over one-third of deaths (35.4%) among people 15-24 years of age, with international studies revealing approximately 87% of people who take their lives are those living with mental illness.
SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath said the changes did not signal a time for celebration with the number of deaths by suicide simply unacceptable.
“It’s critical for the mental health and suicide prevention sectors to come together in a coordinated way to build an Australia where everyone living with mental illness has easy access to appropriate services and support,” he said.
“We still have so much work to do, including reducing stigma and improving post-discharge processes for people who have attempted suicide.
“We welcome the Federal Government’s commitment to stigma as part of the Fifth National Mental Health Plan and additional investment in mental health.
“We also need to be looking at increasing expenditure for those living in rural and regional Australia where suicide rates have been twice as high than in capital cities, yet the expenditure in services per head is half as much.”
A meta review conducted in 2014, titled Risks of all-cause and suicide mortality in mental disorders, showed that those living with complex mental illness are between 10 and 45 times more likely to take than own lives than the general population.
“People living with schizophrenia are 13 times more at risk, those living with bipolar disorder are 17 times, major depressive disorder 20 times, anorexia 31 times and for Australians with borderline personality disorder, the risk of suicide is 45 times higher,” Mr Heath said.
Sam, 30, lives with schizoaffective disorder and attempted to take her life in 2003. “When I attempted suicide, I was in a really dark and lonely place,” Sam said.
“I believed the decision to take my life was a selfless decision. I thought if I wasn’t around, the world would be a better place for everyone.”
Sam’s advice to someone thinking about taking their life is to reach out and seek help. “I wish I’d known I would find my place in the world and life would get better,” she said.
“Family and friends can also help by learning about suicide warning signs and starting a conversation with their loved ones if they think they may be struggling.
“I’d love to see a day where there was no shame or stigma attached to mental illness and everyone felt confident enough to reach out for help. Reaching out and asking for help isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.”
Anyone looking for information, support and guidance from mental health professionals can contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 187 263 or firstname.lastname@example.org from 10am-10pm AEST.
If you are in crisis call Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Line on 1800 659 467, Mensline on 1300 789 978 or KidsHelpline on 1800 551 800.