Rates of suicide continue to increase for young Australians

Rates of suicide continue to increase for young Australians

26 September 2019

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has today released the 2018 Causes of Death data, which include national suicide information. Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health has assessed the data and note that, despite a reduction in total suicide deaths nationally compared to the previous year, suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44 years, and rates of young Australians dying by suicide continues to increase.  

Orygen has identified some of the key findings from the data:

  • 3,046 Australians died by suicide in 2018, and 458 of these were young people under the age of 25 (347 males and 111 females).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are significantly over-represented in these data. The suicide rate for indigenous Australians aged 15-24 is 40.5 per 100,000; more than three times the rate of non-indigenous young people (11.7). 
  • In 15-24-year-old males, the age-standardised suicide rate was 20.2 per 100,000 people, compared to 18.4 in 2017, representing a 9.8% increase in suicide rates for this population in the past year.
  • In 15-24 year old females, the age-standardised suicide rate was 6.4 per 100,000 people, compared to 6.6 in 2017; suggesting that rates of suicide in this population have remained relatively stable from last year to this. 

Dr Karolina Krysinska, a research fellow from the suicide prevention research unit at Orygen, said behind these statistics are real lives, real families and real loss. For every person who dies by suicide, many more are impacted.

“We know that of Victorians who die by suicide, more than 50% have had contact with health services in the six weeks prior to death. There are multiple opportunities for intervention that are being missed,” she said.

A recent Orygen study examining the global impact of suicide prevention approaches in young people found that youth-specific interventions conducted in clinical, educational and community settings can be effective in reducing suicide-related behaviour in young people at risk. 

“In Australia, we’ve seen a lot of investment in suicide prevention, but these efforts must be directed in a strategic way towards evidence-based interventions.” Dr Krysinska said.

“There should be a particular focus on the issues that young people face, and targeted efforts to prevent suicide in this population.”

Orygen recognises that there are multiple initiatives at both national and local levels drawing attention to the issue of suicide prevention. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to a zero target for suicide deaths and we’ve witnessed the establishment of an expert advisory panel that will provide strategic guidance to the Prime Minister to achieve this aim. 

“There is currently a National Productivity Commission Inquiry and in Victoria, a Royal Commission into Mental Health Services, which we hope will identify opportunities for improvement, and strengthen the service system to respond to people in crisis,” Dr Krysinka said. “There is a demand for youth-friendly services and intervention programs that match both the needs and preferences of young people.” 

“Young people are particularly at risk of suicide, and these are preventable deaths,” Dr Krysinka said.

Click here to download Orygen’s report ‘Raising the bar for youth suicide prevention’.