AIHW releases data on ambulance attendances for suicide and self-harm

Posted 20th July 2021 by Gabrielle Dunlevy in General Sector update

The National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System established by the National Mental Health Commission and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) now includes data from the National Ambulance Surveillance System.

What is the National Ambulance Surveillance System (NASS)?

The NASS is a partnership between Turning Point, Monash University, Eastern Health (Victoria) and jurisdictional ambulance services across Australia.

While other countries use ambulance data for research, the NASS is the only place that will routinely and systematically code ambulance data for suicide attempts, ideation and self-harm at a national level for surveillance purposes and regular reporting.

What does the data show?

On 20 July 2021, the AIHW released information on the number of ambulance attendances over time for suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and intentional self-injury across New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

Key findings of the data, which relate to March, June, September, and December 2020 include:

  • Rates of ambulance attendances for suicide attempt and intentional self-injury were higher for females than males. This is consistent with previously reported data which found that rates of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm were higher for females than males.
  • While the ambulance data shows higher rates of suicide attempts for females than males, the suicide rate for males remains considerably higher than the rate for females. 

How will this advance suicide prevention?

Data from ambulance attendances can provide researchers, policymakers and the sector with a more complete picture of suicidal and intentional self-harm behaviours in Australia.

Having this better understanding, alongside continued broader monitoring of suicide and self-harm in Australia, can better inform intervention and community responses.

What other data did the AIHW update?

National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System updates are also now available for international estimates of death and self-harm. Key findings include:

  • Overall, there has been a reduction in suicide rates since 1990 driven mostly by declines in Europe and South East Asia. Across other regions, suicide rates have remained relatively stable.
  • Suicide is more common in males than females in all countries.

What should we keep in mind when reading the update?

International rates of deaths due to self-harm (deaths by suicide) should be interpreted with caution as not every country records deaths in the same way. Stigma associated with suicide may also mean that some countries are likely to underestimate suicide rates.

It’s also important to remember that behind the numbers are real people and their families.

Mindframe offers guidance on reporting data and statistics for both media and communications stakeholders, as well as the suicide prevention and mental health sector.

If you or someone you know has been impacted by this information or needs help, please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate danger, phone emergency services on 000.