Australia's rising suicide rate sparks calls for national target to reduce deaths

There are calls for a national target to reduce Australia’s suicide rate as new statistics show 3,128 Australians took their own life in 2017.

This represents 262 more deaths than the previous year.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released national data on Wednesday that showed intentional self-harm is now ranked the 13th leading cause of death, moving up from 15th position in 2016.

Australia’s suicide rate is now at 12.6 deaths per 100,000 people. This is equal to 2015 as the highest recorded rate in the past 10 years.

The counselling service Lifeline has urged the Morrison government to set a national target to achieve a 25% suicide reduction over five years.

The chairman of Lifeline, John Brogden, said the statistics were an outrage.

“Behind every number released today is a person who is cared for and loved, with family and friends left devastated by their loss,” Brogden said.

He urged Australia to follow Scotland’s lead. In 2002, the Scottish government set a target to reduce suicide by 20% in 10 years. It achieved a reduction of 17% by 2016 and the number of suicides in Scotland in 2015 was the lowest it has been since 1974.

The health minister, Greg Hunt, announced on Wednesday the government had allocated $36m to suicide prevention projects.

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

The Men’s Shed program is also getting a $400,000 boost to help encourage men to speak up about their feelings and seek assistance.

Lifeline received close to 1 million calls from Australians last year and each day, on average, helped 115 people make a 24-hour safety plan.

Suicide is the 10th ranked leading cause of death for males but does not appear in the top 20 leading causes of death for females.

Last year there were 165 suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which was a slight increase on the 162 the year before.

Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636


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