Suicide statistics a “call to action”

New statistics have revealed a drop in the number of suicide-related deaths across Australia, but Youth Focus says more investment and awareness is needed to save young lives.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics report, Causes of Death data 2016, released this morning, shows that 2866 people died from intentional self-harm in Australia, compared to 3027 the previous year.

In WA, 371 people died as a result of suicide last year, compared to 394 in 2015. This included 54 young people aged between 15 and 24, slightly down from 55 the previous year.

While all states and territories, except Tasmania, reported a drop in the number of suicide deaths between 2015 and 2016, suicide was the leading cause of death of children aged between five and 17, and accounted for more than a third of deaths of young people aged between 15 and 24.

Youth Focus General Manager of Community Engagement Chris Harris said the rate of youth suicide had reached crisis point and today’s ABS statistics were a “call to action”.

“This data indicates that the rate of suicide, which is the most preventable cause of death in young people, is not acceptable. It is not OK that any young person believes that ending their life is a preferred choice,” Mr Harris said.

“We are seeing more investment in suicide prevention than ever before, yet these statistics are still unacceptably high.”

The ABS data shows suicide deaths accounted for a greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths (5.5%), compared to non-indigenous Australians (1.7%).

“Sadly, the data reflects high rates of suicide for the traditional owners of our country. It is imperative that we work collaboratively with Aboriginal communities to find the right solutions to changing this in the coming years.”

Mr Harris said experts were optimistic and hopeful that the high number of young people taking their own lives could be arrested.

“To reverse these numbers we have to work together as a community. It is a social responsibility to ensure that young people receive the support they need at the earliest opportunity and preferably before they need specialist mental health services,” he said.

Mr Harris said more and more young people were doing it tough.

“What we need to do, going forward, is reassure young people that when they let somebody know that they are struggling, those people around them feel confident, willing and able to respond to that distress at the earliest possible time,” he said.

“Youth Focus is committed to working in partnership with other agencies, both locally and nationally, to invest in the lives of young people. We believe we can help turn the tide on this massive social problem, but improving the mental health of young people starts at a community level.

“It is naive to think that providing more resources for the young person alone is the answer. We need to support those around them – the families, the schools, the communities – to make a difference.

“We need to wake up to the fact that intervention needs to occur much earlier. That’s not necessarily about getting young people to mental health services, but engaging people in their circle – family, friends, sports groups, schools – so they know what to say and how to respond much earlier.”

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If you or someone you know needs urgent support please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.



Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443



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