In Australia, there was an average of 2320 deaths by suicide per year over the past five years; this equates to an average of six deaths each day (ABS, 2013). More Australians die each year from suicide than road-related deaths or from skin cancer (ABS). Further, it is estimated that for every completed suicide there are 30 suicide attempts. Hanging is the most common method of suicide in Australia, followed by carbon monoxide poisoning (ABS). Consistent with worldwide trends, males account for 75% of suicide deaths in Australia while females are more likely to have non-fatal suicide attempts.
Youth suicide is a significant public health problem in Australia and is one of the most common causes of death for young people. Over 300 young lives are lost to suicide every year, accounting for 27% of deaths among 15-24 year old males and 23% of females (ABS, 2013).
Adolescence is a time of significant physical, social and emotional changes and development. Adolescence is when resilience, problem solving and coping skills start to develop, so they are less likely to cope with and respond to stressful event(s) as adults do. Adolescents are also less likely to seek professional support.
Suicide rates in Australia peaked in 1963 with a rate of 17.5 deaths per 100,000, and fluctuated between 15-17 deaths per 100,000 up until 1990’s. Since 1997, suicide rates have slowly decreased (14.6 in 100,000), and are currently at 10.0 deaths per 100,000 (Response Ability, 2013).
The decline in Australia’s suicide rate is in part due to Australia introducing one of the world’s first national suicide prevention strategies and adopting measures to reduce the availability of some lethal methods (Large & Neilssen, 2010). For example, the firearms “buy back” scheme, the introduction of catalytic converters in all new cars, erecting protective barriers at well-known jumping points and a shift in prescribing less-toxic antidepressant medications have led to declines in suicide by these methods (Brennan, Routley. & Ozanne-Smith, 2006; Chapman, Alpers, Agho, & Jones, 2006; Hall, 2006; Klieve, Barnes. & De Leo, 2009).
Over recent decades, there has been a rise in suicide rates for both young male Australians and Indigenous Australians. For young males aged between 15 and 24 years, the rate of suicide rose rapidly in the 1980’s, peaking at 26.5 deaths per 100,000 in 1990. While the rate of suicide has been gradually decreasing, for young males it still remains above 18 deaths per 100,000 (ABS, 2010). Suicide rates for young females have remained similar over time around 4-5 deaths per 100,000 (ABS, 2010). Similarly, suicide among Indigenous Australians was a rare occurrence up until the 1980s, but has since become increasingly prevalent and is now nearly three times higher than non-Indigenous Australians (Response Ability, 2013).