Lifeline Cautions On Downward Suicide Trend
Monday, 27th March 2006 at 12:03 pm
The latest Australia Bureau of Statistics data shows a downward trend in reported suicide deaths in Australia and according to Lifeline the figures offer encouragement, but are no cause for complacency.
Lifeline says the reality is that too many Australians are dying unnecessarily because most people don’t know how to recognise the signs of, or deal with, people who are suicidal.
The ABS data shows an overall drop of nearly 23 per cent in reported suicides during the seven years between 1997 and 2004, with 2001 the only year to record an increase.
In 2004, there were 622 fewer reported suicides than in 1997. Australian suicide rates, which take into account population changes, have fallen during this period from 14.7 suicides per 100,000 people to 10.4 in 2004.
Lifeline’s CEO Dawn Smith says that as a nation, we are moving in the right direction but there is still so much more that can and should be done. If you look at the turnaround in road deaths over the same period you can see the impact awareness and education campaigns can have in saving lives.
Smith says a key challenge is to help the downward trend in suicide deaths continue, but also identify and respond to people at risk now. Many suicides could have been prevented if more of is understood how to respond to people with suicidal thoughts.
She says people can make a big difference. They can talk to the person about the issue – listen to their concerns, help them get to help. They can help people stay safe and re-connect with reasons for living. Suicide prevention is everyone’s business, not just mental health professionals.
There are a number ways people can learn more about helping people at risk of suicide to stay safe and to get further help. Since the mid-1990s, Lifeline’s LivingWorks program has provided training in suicide first aid prevention though the internationally recognised ASIST program. About 36,000 Australians have completed the two day workshop.
Every day, over 1300 people call Lifeline.
Two out of every three callers will be phoning after hours, overnight or on weekends, when other services are less accessible or closed. Each day, call numbers will peak in the evenings but the phones will still be active well into the early hours of the morning and continue until dawn when the daily pattern resumes.
People of all ages phone Lifeline. However, callers are more likely to be people aged from their mid 20s to early 50s with rural callers slightly older on average than those phoning urban Lifeline centres. Women seek help more than men, so Lifeline’s call patterns are no exception.
The gender difference is less pronounced in callers between the ages of 45 and 65. The most striking feature is the high proportion of callers who are not in a primary relationship or who have experienced significant relationship loss and breakdown. This is reflected in what many people phone to talk about.
Callers with thoughts of suicide continue to view Lifeline as a source of help. Many of these callers are at high risk of self-harm. Getting emergency help for someone whose life is at immediate risk from suicide happens every day.
Lifeline produces a 10-point tool kit for helping someone at risk of suicide that will help people identify the signs, decide what to do, and learn what help is available. The tool kit is available by calling Lifeline’s Just ask on 1300 13 11 14 during business hours or by visiting the Just ask web site at www.justask.org.au