Suicide among people who used disability services

The following summary is based on data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) from the National Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System (the System). The System was established as part of the national effort to address suicide and self-harm in Australia by improving the quality, accessibility and timeliness of data on deaths by suicide and on self-harming and suicidal behaviours.

For guidance on reporting on suicide and self-harm data, please refer to the Mindframe quick reference guide.

Released by AIHW on Wednesday, 6 April 2023

The National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System has been updated to include information about deaths by suicide among people using disability services, sourced from a previously published AIHW report. People living with a disability are considered a priority population for suicide prevention due to high rates of suicide.

This data includes details about deaths for people aged under 65 years who accessed disability specific support services, funded under the National Disability Agreement (NDA), from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2018. It should be noted that this data is not representative of all deaths of people with disability, but rather those who had access to NDA-funded support services during the five-year study period.

For people who accessed disability services between 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2018:

The rate of suicide was three times greater than the general population of the same age (33.5 per 100,000 population compared to 11.4 per 100,000).

Suicide accounted for 5.2% of all deaths and was the fourth leading cause of death for this population. Among the general population, death by suicide accounted for 8.9% of deaths by all causes and was the number one leading cause of death.

‘Primary disability’ is the type of disability which most clearly reflects a person’s experience of disability and causes them the most difficulty in everyday life. It is important to note that people who live with disability can experience multiple types of disability at any point in time.

People using disability services whose primary disability was ‘psychosocial disability’ had substantially higher rates of death by suicide (100.6 per 100,000 population) compared to disability service users with all other primary disabilities and compared to the general population. Psychosocial disability refers to a disability that may arise from a mental health issue.