Sunday, September 12, 2010

Breaking the Silence

A new Australian report on suicide ('Breaking the Silence') paints a very sad picture, and calls for a national strategy for suicide prevention. Some alarming facts:
  • 2200 Australian commit suicide each year. This translates to 7 per day.
  • Almost 80% of those who commit suicide in Australia are males.
  • It is the leading cause of death for men under 44, and women under 35
  • More people die by suicide than from motor vehicle accidents, skin cancer and homicides
  • 178 Australian attempt suicide each day, and many require hospitalisation
  • In 2007, 31509 Australians were admitted to hospital as a result of self-harm
  • The level of direct funding for national suicide prevention is less than $1 per person per year

Suicide and suicide attempts cause immense distress to individuals, and also to the wider community. Colleagues, friends and family members often blame themselves for not seeing the 'danger signs', and wonder what they could have done to prevent such a tragedy. Responses to suicide are also complicated by the accompanying stigma, and the perception of suicide as a failure on the part of the deceased (to cope) or the family (for not intervening or preventing the suicide).

The causes of suicide are complex. However, in reality, almost all people who attempt or complete suicide had one or more warning signs. The vast majority of people who commit suicide have contact with health services. The risk of suicide may be highest when someone is discharged from acute psychiatric care.

This new report list many strategies for governments to implement in order to decrease the risk of suicide amongst Australians. Obviously, much more money should be spent on suicide prevention services. Also, it recommends that the public be educated about mental illness and suicide, in order to reduce stigma in these areas. They recommend an annual budget of $10 million per year for at least five years be spent in order to change public and community attitudes. Let's hope that all politicians and bureaucrats who have some power over government spending take the time to seriously consider this report and all its recommendations.

The full report can be downloaded from:

If you need any help, or know anybody else who needs support, contact Lifeline: 13 11 14.

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