Urgent response required to the rising rates of suicide among young Australians

Urgent response required to the rising rates of suicide among young Australians

30 November 2016

Urgent response required to the rising rates of suicide among young Australians

Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health has released a major report that shows that despite 20 years of suicide prevention strategies and investment by all levels of government, suicide rates among Australian young people are increasing. The report calls for a reinvigorated suicide prevention response that specifically responds to the needs and experiences of young people.

Titled ‘Raising the bar for youth suicide prevention’, the report is a culmination of an extensive program of work conducted throughout 2016 by Orygen in consultation with the Australian youth mental health and suicide prevention sectors and in partnership with young people themselves.

‘Suicide rates among young Australians are at their highest in ten years and rates among young women have doubled during that time. We simply cannot afford for this to continue and a new approach to suicide prevention is clearly needed’ says Dr Jo Robinson, Head of Suicide Prevention Research at Orygen.

The report identifies that youth suicides are around twice as likely to occur as part of a cluster than adult suicides, and points to an increasing trend of self-harm and suicide attempts in young people. These are key risk factors for future suicide and as such need to be taken seriously.

Young people and sector leaders who partnered in the development of the report all acknowledged that responding to suicide among young people requires a different approach than for other age groups. Young people also identified the need for a more direct approach to talking about suicide stating that they want to be involved in the development of policy, service and program responses. The report is therefore calling for areinvigorated national suicide prevention strategy that is supported by a specific youth suicide prevention plan that is both developed and implemented in partnership with young people and the organisations that support them. 

Young people need to be front and centre of a national response, we need a specific youth suicide prevention plan that sits under the new strategy and young people need to be part of its development and implementation’ Dr Robinson said.

The important role of schools and other education settings and technology in the new suicide prevention landscape is also highlighted.

‘Young people told us loud and clear that we should be less afraid to talk openly about suicide, including in school settings. They also want to see a less conservative approach to the use of technology which they see as crucial going forward’ she said.

The report recommends that State and Federal governments commit to building a youth mental health care system that is capable of responding early and effectively to suicide risk among all young people not matter where they live or how they identify. 

Further key recommendations include providing national leadership and coordination, developing regional responses that meet the needs of young people, and addressing the significant gaps and barriers in youth suicide prevention research.

‘None of this is rocket science. The government has just announced a raft of suicide prevention initiatives, and this provides a timely opportunity to raise the bar in terms of our prevention efforts, and to stem the rising tide in youth suicide in Australia’ Dr Robinson said.

View the full report here