Statement: ABS Causes of Death data 2019 release

Posted 23rd October 2020 in Updates from the Prime Minister's National Suicide Prevention Adviser

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have today revealed that there were 3,318 deaths by suicide in Australia in 2019. That equates to nine Australians each day, which is a significant loss to our communities, our families and our country. 

Every life lost to suicide is significant, with the ripple effects felt across families and communities. Research shows that 135 people are exposed to each suicide death, meaning that over 447,000 people in 2019 were impacted as a family member, friend, colleague, teammate, first responder, neighbour or treating professional.

The numbers, and the people behind the numbers, make it clear that our suicide rates have stayed stubbornly high over the past five years and we must accelerate the work to deliver a whole of government and whole of community approach to suicide prevention. 

This year in my role as National Suicide Prevention Adviser, I have heard from people with lived experience of suicide and worked with government, stakeholders and communities. What I heard is that we need a comprehensive whole of government and whole of community approach that is grounded in early and compassionate responses to those in distress.

There needs to be culture shift so the onus is not on the individual to put their hand up and ask for help, but capacity is being built for a range of service systems and individuals to offer support to those in need.

Suicide is a multi-factorial behaviour which means that no single government, government portfolio, person, or organisation can reduce suicide attempts and suicide deaths alone. Collectively, however, they can make a big difference.

Access to affordable and effective mental health services is critical for suicide prevention. However, it is not sufficient in and of itself. Attention must also be given to other factors that contribute to suicidal behaviour – a history of self-harm, financial distress, relationship breakdown, housing insecurity, childhood adversity, discrimination, and use of alcohol and other drugs to manage stress. 

Today as we cite the number of people who died by suicide to highlight the scale and impact of the issue, it is important to be reminded that this is only part of the overall picture. Behind each of those numbers is a person, a journey and a network of other people.

We also need to look beyond the statistics and ensure that we learn from those who have experienced suicidal distress and suicidal thoughts, and from the resilience displayed by people who are recovering from suicide attempts. All too frequently these experiences are poorly understood but are critical in designing a more effective and more compassionate response moving forwards. 

Data snapshot

  • Today we learned that 3,318 Australians died by suicide last year in 2019 at a rate of 12.9 per 100,000.
  • This equates to the loss of nine Australians every day. 
  • In the five years from 2015 to 2019, the rate has fluctuated between 11.9 (2016) and 13.2 (2017) deaths per 100,000 population.
  • Male suicides still make up three-quarters of all suicides – but we have seen increasing trends over the past 10 years for both males and females in some age groups. 
  • More than half of all deaths by suicide in 2019 (55%) occurred in people aged 30-59 years.
  • Suicides among young people 15-19 years decreased slightly, but there were increases for ages 20-29 years.
  • A total of 96 children and young people under the age of 17 died by suicide in 2019. 
  • Increases in numbers of suicide deaths were recorded between 2018 and 2019 for all states except Queensland.  
  • Suicide is having a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with rates twice those for non-Indigenous people (27.1 compared to 12.7 per 100,000 population).
  • Suicide rates are highest outside of Greater capital cities (17.5 per 100,000 compared to 10.8 per 100,000). 

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