ABS data shows increase in suicide deaths among men and women in NSW in 2017

THE challenge for those working in adolescent mental health has been laid bare in new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The data shows an increasing number of young people are taking the extreme step to end their lives.

Figures from the ABS show that intentional self-harm or suicide was responsible for the most deaths in the age groups of 15-24 years and 25-34 years last year in NSW.

Of the total 339 deaths in the age group of 15-24 years, suicides were responsible for nearly 20 per cent or 106 deaths.

More males (82 deaths) committed suicide than females (24 deaths) in that age category, the data shows.

A Western NSW Local Health District spokesperson said they have increased the number of clinicians in the community to prevent suicides.

“We have increased the number of staff working in our community mental health teams, especially staff working with children and adolescents and those that are older,” the spokesperson said. 

“We also have a mental health support number (1800 011 511) that is staffed 24 hours by clinicians who are ready to provide support, advice, assessment and, if appropriate, referral to the most appropriate support service.”

A NSW Health spokesperson said the NSW Government has delivered a record $2.1 billion for mental health services and infrastructure in its current budget. 

“This investment is occurring as the NSW Ministry of Health and the NSW Mental Health Commission develop a Strategic Framework for Suicide Prevention in NSW 2018-2023,” the spokesperson said.

“This Framework will outline the fundamental principles of suicide prevention, assisting communities develop essential elements in a way that meets their own local needs and conditions.”

The ABS data suggests that a high rate of suicides among young people was not only restricted to NSW.

According to the ABS, suicide remained the leading cause of death of children aged between five and 17 years across Australia. 

It said 98 children committed suicide in 2017 - a 10.1 per cent increase on deaths in 2016.

“Nearly 80 per cent of the child suicides were aged between 15 and 17,” the ABS said.

In NSW, the most number of suicide cases, however, were in the age group of 25-34 years.

Of the total 517 reported deaths in 2017, suicides were said to be behind 30 per cent or 161 deaths.

The other two leading categories for death were accidental poisoning by and exposure to noxious substances and a car occupant being injured in a transport accident.

Lifeline Central West chief executive officer Stephanie Robinson told Fairfax Media earlier this week that mental health should not be a taboo subject in today’s society.

“We can help people to recognise the invitations [signs] so they don’t miss, dismiss or avoid them,” she said.

“Instead of just dismissing when someone says ‘yeah, I’m alright’, start the conversation and we can change this.”

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The ABS data showed intentional self-harm continued to be the prime reason for deaths in the age group of 35-44 years, being responsible for 15 per cent or 151 deaths.

Accidental poisoning was responsible for another 141 deaths in this age group.

The tendency of committing self-harm declined in those aged above 45 years.

Malignant neoplasms of digestive organs, which is a cancer of the digestive system, was the primary reason for deaths in the age group of 45-54 years.

Of the 2122 deaths in this age category, cancer in the digestive system was responsible for 236 deaths, followed by heart disease (177 deaths) and suicide (155 deaths).

The data showed suicide deaths were barely visible in the age groups of 55-64 years, 65-74 years and 75-84 years.

For help:

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78
  • Beyondblue: 1300 22 46 36
This story The silent crisis that’s taking more young lives than cancer in NSW first appeared on Western Advocate.