New report reveals rise in suicide rates of Victorian Indigenous population

Posted 20th January 2022 in Research General

The Coroners Court of Victoria has today released two reports: Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – Victoria 2018–2021; and Coroners Court Monthly Suicide Report for December 2021. An overview of the reports is below.

Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Victoria 2018-2021 report

The Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people Victoria, 2018-2021 report revealed a significant increase in suicide deaths in Victoria’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in 2021. This is in contradiction to the decreasing rates of suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations that have been reported in every other state and territory in Australia.

Developed by the Coroners Koori Engagement Unit (CKEU) and Coroners Prevention Unit, the report utilises data from the Victorian Suicide Register, a real-time database recording all suicides reported to and investigated by Victorian coroners since 1 January 2000.

Some of the new data has been summarised below:

  • The number of suicides by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria increased 75% from 20 deaths in 2020 to 35 in 2021
  • Estimates on the most recent population data suggest Indigenous people make up around 0.8 per cent of the Victorian population, but on average 3.3 per cent of suicide deaths between 2018 and 2021 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • In this period, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died by suicide at a rate nearly three and a half times higher than non-Indigenous people
  • The report notes that even though the sample size is small, the increase is still statistically significant as a portion of the population
  • Indigenous men are most at risk between the ages of 25 and 34, while women aged 18 to 24 are classified as the highest risk group
  • Other themes that recurred across both males and females of all ages included inability to access support services; engagement with the police and justice system proximal to passing; relationship breakdowns; and lack of access to stable accommodation.

The manager of the Coroner's Court Koori Engagement Unit, Troy Williamson stated in the report: "Suicide is complex and has many layers. It is vital that barriers to seeking support are dismantled and culturally competent practices are put in place to save lives."

Given the significant increase, the Coroner has indicated that there will be further investigation into the factors behind these deaths, with more data to be released during 2022.

View the Suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Victoria 2018–2021 report

Coroners Court Monthly Suicide Report for December 2021

Also released today was the last of the 2021 monthly Victorian data (December 2021) for the National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System that revealed that there have been no significant changes in suicide rates from previous years, apart from an increase in younger women who have died by suicide. This was also a trend that was noted in the November release.

The data revealed that suicide deaths in 2021 for Victoria are at their lowest rate since 2017 (2017 n=684, 2018 n=703, 2019 n=700, 2020 n= 712, 2021 n=683).

All data in the report has been presented as number of deaths (rather than rates) and suicide deaths across all genders and ages have either remained stable or decreased apart from:

  • Females 24 and under (under 18 – increase from 3 deaths in 2020 to 13 deaths 2021, 18-24 – increase from 16 deaths 2020 to 27 deaths 2021)
  • Males 45-54 and 65+ (45-54 – increase from 91 deaths in 2020 to 103 deaths 2021, 65+ - increase from 83 deaths in 2020 to 93 deaths 2021).

Read the Coroners Court Monthly Suicide Report for December 2021

Media, communications professionals and suicide prevention sector representatives are reminded to be responsible and accurate when communicating about suicide and suicide attempt data. Refer to the Mindframe Guidelines to support safe and accurate media reporting, portrayal and communication of suicide and mental ill-health.

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.

Please click here for a list of national crisis support numbers for individuals and communities.

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