National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System new data release

Posted 15th October 2021 in General

Today’s data release:

Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and the impact on family, friends and communities are profound. These data released today are important, but equally so is the experience of distress and the life that has been lost which is behind every data point. Although suicide and intentional self-harm are complex issues, they can be prevented. By increasing our understanding of data alongside the lived experience of distress, we will increase the opportunity to save lives.

The continuous improvement in the data we collect and the linkages we make are critical to suicide prevention reform. Today’s data release features two significant improvements to the Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System which enable deeper insights into the experience of distress specifically for certain population groups and geographic regions. This will help us to better identify trends, emerging areas of concern and at-risk groups which will increase the opportunity to make informed and effective resource and service delivery decisions to prevent suicide and distress.

The SMS Service improvements include:

  1. 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.
  2. The introduction of a modelling study (Multi-Agency Data Integration Project) which analyses associations between social factors and deaths by suicide.

This release also includes unembargoed updates from the ABS Deaths by suicide in Australia in 2020 from the ABS Causes of Death publication and 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)

The NASS is a key component of national suicide prevention reform. Data from ambulance attendances have the potential to provide a more complete picture of suicidal and self-harm behaviours in Australia, and to identify opportunities for improved intervention or post-vention – importantly – at a stage when further harm may be prevented.

This is an early example of what can be achieved through a whole-of-governments approach to suicide prevention. The collection of this data has required cross jurisdictional coordination and commitment to recognising the contribution our ambulance and paramedic personnel can deliver in helping us gain a more complete picture of suicidal and self-harming behaviours in Australia.

Click here for data on ambulance attendances: suicidal and self-harm behaviours

Association between social factors and deaths by suicide (MADIP)

For the first time, AIHW has undertaken multivariate regression modelling of social factors and deaths by suicide using the ABS Multi-Agency Data Integration Project data set.

Census data from 2011 were linked to death registration data from 2011 to 2017 and a synthetic income variable developed by researchers at the ANU combining census income, DSS and ATO data. This modelling has been peer-reviewed by researchers at the Australian National University, Western Sydney University and the University of Melbourne.

The results show that the rate of deaths by suicide in Australia over the period, when controlling for confounding factors, were higher in those unemployed, lone person households, and widowed, divorced or separated.

Click here for MADIP Data

In making this data available, Australia is stepping up in its work towards zero suicide. The Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring system is providing data that can be utilised to support planning for service delivery and outreach, and to increase awareness and understanding of suicide, self-harm and suicide ideation. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy, we must do what we can to intervene earlier in distress, change the way Australians experience mental health and wellbeing, and save lives.

Tips for safely communicating about suicide data

  • Media, communications professionals and people in the suicide prevention sector are reminded to be responsible and accurate when communicating about suicide and suicide attempt data.
    • Remember that data does not show the full impact of suicidal behaviour
    • Be mindful of the impact that frequent and prolonged reporting on suicide data and suicide deaths may have on the community
    • Report on rates, as opposed to numbers alone. Caution should be taken when comparing across time periods or groups and you should seek advice on interpretation of data
    • Avoid simplistic explanations for why a person has died by suicide, by ensuring risk factors are reported in their broader context and not attributing the death to a singular cause or risk factor
    • Use correct terminology when reporting on suicide data and person-centred and strengths-based language that is non-stigmatising
    • Seek expert opinion to provide context and perspective – including the perspectives of people with a lived experience of suicide
    • Remove or minimise details about the method or location of suicide and remember to promote help seeking information.