Australia's Suicide Crisis
Varsha Saini | On 04, Sep 2021
While the media rightly focuses on the daily COVID numbers and our strict lockdown restrictions, another threat to Australians lives is going largely unreported. Suicide Prevention Australia polled over 1000 adults recently. The findings were stark; namely, 15% of those polled directly knew someone who had killed themselves or had tried to kill themselves within the previous 12-months. In addition, a further 11% of those polled indirectly knew somebody who had attempted suicide.
Suicide is a complex topic as many factors contribute to suicidal tendencies, whether it be anxiety, depression, loneliness, financial worries, relationship breakdown, substance abuse, or mental health issues. However, Australia has become a breeding ground for all these personal troubles over the last 18-months. In addition, strains and restrictions on medical services have meant many people are unfortunately suffering in silence. As per the latest available data, 3318 Australians took their own lives in 2019. That’s nine people a day. Alarmingly, 178 Australians attempt to end their lives each day, that’s one every 8 minutes. The brutal reality is that the COVID pandemic will have a negative impact on the 2021 figures when they are published, but generally, these are not printed contemporaneously.
Across the Australian states, various reports indicate of an increase in suicide or suicide attempts. In June, Victoria’s Kids Helpline announced that attempted suicide figures regarding local teens had almost doubled in the first half of 2021. It coincides with the fact that the Victorian Government implemented several harsh lockdowns over the last year. In 2020, the helpline reported that over 13,000 minors called with suicidal tendencies. Also, the helpline reported that a child called for help every minute during lockdown: a by-product of the stress, abuse, and fear brought on by lockdown. But, of course, this is just a snapshot of what is going on across all of Australia. In fact, stress is a global by-product of the COVID pandemic.
While the Australian National Health Data Agency has not confirmed that COVID-19 has led to more suicides, it acknowledges “national events” can influence statistics. Most people would agree that there is no greater example of a national event than the COVID pandemic and its dire effects on Australian society. The fact that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports a rise in the use of mental health services and an increase in recorded “psychological distress” points to an undercurrent of mental health issues. As does the 31% increase in A&E admissions for self-harm or suicidal ideation in children and teens in New South Wales over 2020’s statistics.
Recently, New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro clashed with Gladys Berejiklian after she imposed a curfew across western and southwestern Sydney, arguing they have done little to stem rising case numbers and are damaging people’s wellbeing. He has a point as Australian’s mental health is being eroded by continual disruption, pessimism, uncertainty, and fear. More needs to be done to help those quietly suffering in silence.