This morning the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the Causes of Death Data for 2016, including the preliminary suicide death data for Australia.
There was some promising news this year, with the official data revealing a reduction in suicide rates when compared to data from the previous three years.
The data for 2016 indicated that 2,866 people died by suicide at a rate of 11.8 per 100,000, compared to 3,027 deaths in 2015 at a rate of 12.7 deaths per 100,000.
The 2016 figures again showed that approximately 75% of suicide deaths occurred among males, with 2,151 male deaths (at an age-specific rate of 17.9 per 100,000) and 715 female deaths (at a rate of 5.9 per 100,000).
The data also follows trends across the past decade which indicate that while suicide affects all age groups, the highest rates of suicide occur in men over 85 years followed by men in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
While there was an overall reduction in suicide rates for both males and females, the data indicates some variability across age groups.
Suicide rates reduced across many age groups, including a considerable reduction in suicide rates for men in the highest risk age groups (those aged 35-49 years and those over 80 years) but there were small increases in suicide rates for other age groups including young males 15-24 years and females 20-34 years.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the figures and associated impacts are higher than non-Indigenous Australians with the data indicating that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are twice as likely (at a rate of 23.8 per 100,000) to die by suicide than non-Indigenous Australians (11.4 per 100,000), with particularly concerning rates in younger age groups.
A full summary of the 2016 data and trends compared to other years has been prepared and available here.
Everymind Director Jaelea Skehan says that while it is somewhat pleasing to see rates reduce in 2016, we need to remember that behind the data released today are people, families and communities. Many of whom have been struggling with the impact of the losses felt in 2016 and in other years.
“Following a 10 year period of little change, rates of suicide increased between 2013 and 2015, so it is certainly a relief to see a small reduction in suicide rates and to see the number of deaths back below 3,000 in 2016.
“We know that any reduction in suicides will have benefits for our communities, because the impact of each life lost to suicide is profound and long-lasting.
“But there is still much work to be done across Australia as there are still a distressing number of individuals, families and communities impacted by suicide each year in our country.
“While it is promising news to see suicide rates reducing, there is no one working in suicide prevention that will be celebrating today. The number of people lost to suicide is still too high, but it is a relief to see that the upward trend that we had seen in recent years has not continued as many may have feared,” stated Ms Skehan.
The data released today supports the sector and community call for more investment, more collaboration and more commitment to change in suicide prevention said Jaelea.
“Suicide prevention is now a bipartisan political issue, but we need to ensure we keep our focus and build momentum for an all of system and all of community response to suicide prevention."
“We need to collaborate to get the balance right between implementing what we know works and supporting innovation, so that we can reach more people in new ways.
“With direction from the soon to be released 5th National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan, what the community needs and deserves is a commitment that all levels of government, the not-for-profit sector and frontline services will work better and work together over the next decade to ensure this one year of reduced rates is repeated each and every year,” she said.
Mindframe Manager Marc Bryant says it is essential that we understand what suicide rates and trends tell us and that we report and communicate about them accurately.
“In recent years our team has translated the data from the ABS quickly and provided national briefings for our media as well as the mental health and suicide prevention sectors.
“Suicide and suicide prevention are important issues of community concern, but we need to ensure we report on and talk about these issues in a way that is accurate and is safe,” he said.