When exploring suicide data, it is important to remember that behind the numbers are people, families and communities impacted by suicide in Australia. The reasons people take their own life are complex, and often there is no single reason why a person attempts or dies by suicide. By increasing our understanding of data alongside the lived experience of distress, we will increase the opportunity to save lives.
The National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring Project was established in 2020 as part of the national effort to address suicide and self-harm in Australia. In partnership with the National Mental Health Commission, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has been funded under the Australian Government Department of Health to increase transparency and access to information, so Australians have a more informed understanding of suicide, intentional self-harm, and suicide risk.
One of the project's key goals is to facilitate more timely data on suspected deaths by suicide from all Australian jurisdictions. This is achieved by creating The National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System, collating data sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, national survey data, and across jurisdictions from government health departments and coronial offices to emergency services and research studies. The system will be updated regularly as new data becomes available.
National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System Latest Updates
The latest data release occurred on 15th October 2021, and includes
- Increased access to Ambulance data; since July AIHW has been receiving monthly ambulance data from NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and ACT. While data from QLD is included for the first time with two snapshots from the month of March in the years 2020 and 2021 only.
- The introduction of a modelling study (Multi-Agency Data Integration Project) which analyses associations between social factors and deaths by suicide.
- Updates from the ABS Causes of Death 2020 report.
- Updates on current and ex-serving ADF personnel who have died by suicide from the AIHW Serving and ex-serving ADF members who have serviced since 1985: Suicide monitoring 2001 to 2019.
National Ambulance Surveillance System (NASS) update
- In March 2021, the number and rate of ambulance attendances for suicide attempts by females aged 0-24 in NSW, Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania increased significantly compared to December 2020 (approx. 23%) and March 2020 (approx. 25%). Prior to this the number and rate had increased gradually by approximately 25% between March 2018 and December 2020.
- In all other age groups for both men and women, rates of ambulance attendances for suicide attempts in March 2021 were similar to March 2020.
- From March 2018 to March 2021, the rate of ambulance attendances for suicidal ideation increased in NSW and the ACT and fluctuated in Victoria and Tasmania. The rate also increased in Queensland from March 2020 to March 2021.
- While there has been an increase in suicide attempt and ideation, its important to remember that the NASS is a measure of help-seeking behaviour. Increases in the number and rate of ambulance attendances is therefore as a result of more people seeking support. The more people that seek help is more likely to result in better outcomes for individuals and communities, and tailored policy and service responses to meet these needs.
- Its important to acknowledge that there may be more people experiencing suicidal behaviours that do not seek help. Therefore ongoing sector responses that encourage help-seeking and help-offering is critical.
ABS Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) - association between socioeconomic factors and deaths by suicide
- For the first time, AIHW has undertaken multivariate regression modelling of social factors and deaths by suicide using the MADIP data set. This modelling has been peer-reviewed by researchers at the Australian National University, Western Sydney University and the University of Melbourne.
- From September 2011 to December 2017 results show that the rate of deaths by suicide in Australia over the period, when controlling for other socioeconomic factors, was higher:
- for males than females (3.1 times higher)
- if people are socially isolated (1.8 to 2.0 times higher),
- in blue-collar jobs (1.4 to 1.5 times higher),
- for those unemployed (1.8 times higher),
- if people were unmarried/widowed/divorced/separated (1.8 times), or in lone person households (1.7 times higher).
- When separated by sex and adjusting for other factors, females who needed help with core activities of daily living had 2.4 times higher risk than females who did not need assistance;
- Males who were single parents had 1.3 times higher risk compared with males in a couple without children.
- The cohort in this study is people who have died by suicide. That means everybody had an increased risk of suicide, even those in the comparison groups. From a policy and program perspective this provides guidance for best targeting those at higher risk.
The National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring Project
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