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Number of Australian suicides up in 2017

Australia’s national suicide rate went up by 9 per cent in 2017

New data has revealed that Australia’s national suicide rate increased by nine per cent in 2017, with almost a third experiencing an alcohol or drug use disorder at the time.

Five states and territories, including NSW (9%), recorded an increase in deaths by suicide. Australian men are still three times as likely to suicide than women, however the age-standardised rate for females has reached its highest rate in 10 years.

We acknowledge that the national suicide rate has increased by 9.1%, an extremely upsetting finding. Each of the 3,128 deaths by suicide in 2017 was a potentially preventable tragedy, and reinforces the need to do more across sectors, Scientia Professor Helen Christensen, Chief Scientist and Director at Black Dog Institute, said.

“The increase in suicide deaths is a trend that has been continuing over the last decade, and is an incentive to try even harder. What we do has to be both evidence-based and at scale – reaching every community across the country, no matter how remote. Suicide affects everyone, and suicide prevention is everybody’s business.”

There were 3,128 deaths by suicide across the nation last year, compared to 2,866 in 2016, the new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows.

The 2017 rate is on par with 2015 as the highest preliminary rate recorded in the past decade.

The figures show the increase in suicide deaths between 2016 and 2017 was not spread evenly across the states and territories.

Queensland recorded the steepest rise, with 804 deaths by suicide in 2017, compared to 674 the year before.

New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory recorded the next most notable increases, but the number was marginally lower in Victoria and South Australia.

Black Dog Institute is currently implementing the largest suicide prevention trial across NSW. Using a systems approach that focuses on prevention across the lifespan, from schools-based programs to after care, LifeSpan is now underway in two of four NSW trial sites. Beyond this, the LifeSpan team is supporting Commonwealth suicide prevention trials in 12 sites across the nation, and 12 place-based trials within Victoria, with many of these adapting LifeSpan for their specific regional needs.

The ABS has also shed light this year, for the first time, on health conditions people were experiencing at the time of their death by suicide.

Mood disorders, which include depression, were recorded as being experienced by 43 per cent of those who died, while anxiety or stress-related disorders were being experienced by 17.5 per cent.

Drug and alcohol use disorders, which include both drug misuse and acute intoxication, were being experienced by 29.5 per cent of people.

The suicide rate continued to be higher among men than women in 2017, and among indigenous Australians compared with the broader population.

The data comes as the federal government has given $36 million to organisations trying to curb the number of Australians taking their own lives.

Suicide Prevention Australia and Mental Health First Aid Australia are among 15 groups to have received a share of the money for projects, including research and awareness-raising ventures.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says suicide, which accounts for almost 3000 Australian deaths each year, remains a “national tragedy”.

“One life lost to suicide is one too many,” he said.

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