Contributing factors to suicidal behaviour

The reasons people take their own lives are very complex. There is no single reason why a person attempts or dies by suicide. Suicide prevention in Australia requires a regional, multi-faceted approach.

To achieve this, we must improve our knowledge and awareness of the social and economic circumstances that can increase vulnerability i.e. the social determinants of health.  

 The World Health Organisation describes the social determinants of health as the ‘conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age’ (WHO, 2018). Addressing the social determinants of health works on addressing the health and wellbeing impact of trauma, poverty and disadvantage, racism and discrimination, isolation and loneliness.

 The social determinants of health generally contribute to the differences and at times avoidable health status seen within Australia and between regions. For example, people from low socio-economic backgrounds may be more likely to experience poorer health than people who are more advantaged (AIHW 2016).

Social determinants of health 

Many agree that a range of social, cultural and political influences contribute to suicide. Poor economic conditions, insecurity of employment, trauma, abuse, discrimination, poverty, inequality, social isolation and exclusion all put individuals at increased risk of suicide (WHO, 2014).

It should be acknowledged that some priority populations are not intrinsically more at risk of suicidal behaviour, but rather these individuals may experience greater rates of discrimination, isolation and other forms of social exclusion which can impact on suicidal thinking and behaviour.

 Others may be at increased risk of suicide due to their experiences (in childhood or adulthood), their current access to economic and social resources, their current health status and their previous exposure to suicidal behaviour.

Finally, the relationship between health status and its social determinants is complex. Social conditions impact other determinants of health such as access to mental health services and mental health behaviours.

In this section

People living in rural and remote areas

According to the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, people living in rural and remote Australia are twice as likely to die by suicide as people living in major cities.

People who have experienced a suicide attempt

A previous suicide attempt is the largest single factor indicating future suicide risk and death by suicide.