Suicide rates still high but there is hope

25 September 2019, Australia – The latest ‘Causes of Death’ data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown only a slight decrease in the rate of suicide across Australia, but there is hope as mental health organisations, service providers and government continue the conversation and support initiatives to reach zero.

All states except New South Wales showed a fall in the number of deaths by suicide but batyr recognises that this number is still high at 3,046 people in 2018, with 15-29 year olds making up 23% (705 young people) of all deaths by suicide.

Breaking down the statistics:

  • 15-19 year olds accounted for 184, or 6% of all deaths by suicide in 2018.
  • 20-24 year olds accounted for 252, or 8% of all deaths by suicide in 2018.
  • 25-29 years olds accounted for 269, or 9% of all deaths by suicide in 2018.
  • Across all age groups, males (2,320) are still more than three times more likely to die by suicide compared to females (726).
  • 169 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died by suicide in 2018, accounting for 5.5% of all deaths by suicide.
  • Mood disorders, including depression (43.9%), and anxiety and stress-related disorders (17.6%) were two of four major comorbidity factors contributing to suicide.

It’s important to remember that behind these numbers are individuals, and their affected families, friends and communities.

“More than a fifth of individuals that died by suicide in 2018 were young people and this is a figure batyr is not comfortable with and no one should be,”batyr CEO Nic Brown said.

“The Government has set a target ‘toward zero suicides’ and we support this ambition.”

“It is important to be realistic but at the same time what goal would be acceptable other than zero?”

“There is a lot happening all across the mental health space, from prevention and postvention, to innovations in treatment that is promising and gives us hope for the future. We all need to come together to create significant change.”

batyr believes preventative mental health and wellbeing programs, and in particular the sharing of lived experiences, are an important piece of the puzzle in curbing youth suicide rates. 

There are a number of great organisations and programs across the country that batyr looks forward to working alongside in the future. 

Why is sharing lived experience stories important?

Research has found lived experience storytelling to be the most effective way of changing negative perceptions of mental health (Research and the elimination of the stigma of mental illness, Patrick Corrigan, 2012).

Stigma can prevent young people from reaching out for support and we already know that the average help-seeking rate of young people (18-24) is just 22% in Australia (Young Australians: Their health and wellbeing, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011).

There is a risk that the suicide rate will increase to over 40% in the coming decade if we do not encourage early help-seeking before reaching crisis point, according to a report released on World Suicide Prevention Day (Turning Points: Imagine a World Without Suicide, Suicide Australia).

“We simply cannot accept that as a community, or as individuals,” batyr founder Seb Robertson said.

“We must continue to invest, support and amplify the voices of young people. For young people, by young people: it’s what we do best.”

The fight for ‘zero’ continues

batyr acknowledges that there is more work to be done in this space and continue to work with mental health organisations and the community to find solutions.

batyr’s Amplified Voices digital platform, will allow stories of hope and resilience to be accessed anywhere, at any time, across Australia to encourage young people to take the first step on their mental health journey.

batyr are also working with hospitals in NSW with their batyr2peer program, allowing young people admitted to mental health units to hear from other young people about their experience with pre-admission, admission and post-admission.

A whole of community approach is essential to tackling this issue and batyr will continue to put in the hard work to reach zero.