There was a 2.5 per cent reduction in suicide deaths in 2018 since 2017, but more action is still needed, says former PM and Beyond Blue chair Julia Gillard.
Former prime minister Julia Gillard is encouraged by a slight dip in Australia’s suicide death toll.
But the peak body for men’s health is concerned about a significant increase in the number of men and boys taking their own lives over the past 10 years.
Gillard, who chairs mental health advocacy group Beyond Blue, said data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday suggested community and government suicide prevention initiatives were working.
But there is more to be done, she said.
The 3046 registered total deaths by suicide in 2018 was a 2.5 per cent drop from the 3128 deaths in 2017.
“Yet each day, eight Australians are still dying by suicide and six of them are men,” Gillard said.
“It’s important we remember this is not about numbers, it’s about people.”
Suicide was the 14th leading cause of death in 2018, while heart disease remained Australia’s number one killer.
Suicide was the leading cause of death for both indigenous and non-indigenous children aged between five and 17 years.
It was the second-leading cause of death for indigenous men, but only 10th for non-indigenous men.
The Australian Men’s Health Forum said the statistics showed the number of men and boys dying by suicide in Australia had risen by about 30 per cent in the 10 years leading up to 2018.
The foundation’s chief executive Glen Poole said jurisdictions across Australia needed to address the unique needs of men and boys in their policies.
“While improving men’s access to mental health services is part of the solution we need to put much more energy into supporting men dealing with life crises such as relationship breakdown and unemployment,” he said.
Suicide was the 23rd-leading cause of death for women nationally, but the seventh-leading cause for indigenous women.
The suicide rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was twice that of the Australian population as a whole.
Out of every 100,000 Australians, 12 died by suicide in 2018, which was the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 44.
When calculating years of potential life lost, a measure of premature death, suicide accounted for more than 105,000 years of life lost in 2018.
Gillard said more was needed to be done to support individuals, families and communities and called for structural reform that included a range of preventive and awareness measures.
“We need collaboration across governments and communities because we all have a role to play in reducing suicide,” she said.
The data also showed pharmaceutical opioids—including prescribed painkillers and methadone—were involved in over 70 per cent of opioid induced deaths, with opioids contributing to more than three deaths a day in 2018.
Opioids contributed to 1123 of the 1740 drug induced deaths in Australia, with the majority of opioid deaths being accidental overdoses by middle-aged men using pharmaceutical opioids.
Painaustralia chief executive Carol Bennett said the data showed Australia was facing a “pain epidemic.”
“Yet sadly pain as an issue has been missing from health and public policy discussions,” Bennett said.
If you are struggling and have suicidal thoughts or are in need of support, please contact any one of the following organisations:
For personal crises call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. For sexual assaults and domestic violence call 1800 RESPECT, and for men dealing with relationship difficulties call 1300 789 978.
By Finbar O’Mallon