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Australian Suicide Rate ‘Deeply Disturbing’

28 September 2016 at 4:22 pm
Lina Caneva
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures into suicide deaths showing a 10-year high are “deeply disturbing and disappointing”, according to mental health Not for Profit SANE.

Lina Caneva | 28 September 2016 at 4:22 pm


Australian Suicide Rate ‘Deeply Disturbing’
28 September 2016 at 4:22 pm

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures into suicide deaths showing a 10-year high are “deeply disturbing and disappointing”, according to mental health Not for Profit SANE.

The Causes of Death, Australia report recorded 3,027 deaths from suicide in 2015 –  eight deaths each day and a 10-year high.

The ABS figures reveal that:

  • For the first time more than 3,000 Australians died from suicide.
  • The suicide rate increased from 12.2 to 12.7 per 100,000 Australians.
  • In the last 10 years, rates have never been higher for men aged 15 to 54 years, and men still take their lives at a rate three times that of women.
  • In the last 10 years, rates have never been higher for women aged 45 to 54 years.
  • Suicide rates are up in Qld, WA, Tas and ACT, they are steady or have increased slightly in Vic, NSW and NT, and have only decreased in SA.

SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath said the number of people dying from suicide was “deeply concerning and disappointing whatever way you look at it”.

“For those 690,000 Australians living with complex mental illness the increased risk of suicide is 10 to 40-times higher than that for the general population,” Heath told Pro Bono Australia News.

“While as a nation we have made real advances in reducing stigma around mild-to-moderate mental health conditions, there is a huge amount of work to be done to help those at the more severe end of the spectrum.

“I started in this work 20 years ago when the youth suicide rates were going through the roof and… then we saw youth suicide rates drop significantly from 1997 to 2004. Pretty well since then the rates have been flat across the board. What is concerning is that these figures coming out this year are deeply disappointing.

“I suspected these numbers might be going up but I was praying that they wouldn’t.”

Heath said, for a number of years, suicide prevention funding has just been rolled out year on year, which caused uncertainty within the sector.

“However, in this area I am not sure [that] much is served by trying to point the finger at anyone. I think we have all got to do better,” he said.  

“The government has said that it has got a renewed commitment around suicide prevention so we are now looking at funding rounds that are going to put in place multi-year funding but I think that there’s a lot more we can be doing in terms of the effort here.”

Heath said that from SANE’s perspective there was a need to be doing work around people who have complex mental illness.

“We have about 700,000 Australians living with complex mental illness and for those people the suicide rates are 10 to 40 times the general population. It’s not the only area to be working on but if we want to have a significant impact on suicide rates we have to have a big effort around both living with complex mental illness and we need to do a lot more work in terms of reducing the stigma and shame that is often associated with these conditions,” he said.

“We have done a good job and organisations have been out there working at the moderate end of the spectrum but for those people down the more severe end there is a hell of a lot more work that we need to do in terms of reducing the stigma and also just making sure that people have access to better quality services.

“We have really got to watch our language around particular groups in our society [speaking of] people being a ‘cost’ because there is a lot of discourse around the cost to society of different people and when it comes to suicide we know that a sense of burdensomeness is something that can actually tip people over the edge.”

He said as a society we needed to be very careful about talking about the cost of mental illness and ensure that, “for those people who are feeling particularly vulnerable and they are not feeling so hopeful that we don’t lead an individual person to fall to the devastating and wrong view that the world is better off without them”.

He said language around “leaners and lifters” was not helpful and stigma remained a key barrier for people living with complex mental illness to seek the help they needed, thereby preventing suicide.

“We are seeing examples of people waiting more than 10 years before getting a diagnosis because they don’t feel comfortable or supported to openly discuss what they are experiencing.

“Alongside reducing stigma, we need to ensure people can access quality mental health services when and how they need them. We call for a renewed commitment by governments and Not for Profit organisations across the country to do everything we can to reverse this tragic trend of increased rates of suicide.”

If you or anyone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 13 11 14  or visit, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 or visit

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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One comment

  • Harold Maio says:

    reducing stigma (directed at mental illnesses)

    Never did the Women’s Movement seek to “reduce” the stigma of rape. They told us point blank to stop asserting it.

    Never ought a lawyer seek to “reduce” the prejudice someone experiences. Lawyers represent fully.

    Please be far more cautious in your language.

    Harold A. Maio, retired mental health editor

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