A previous suicide attempt is the largest single factor indicating future suicide risk and death by suicide. Appropriate professional support, including peer support, following a suicide attempt can help to reduce the risk of subsequent attempts
An additional unknown number of Australians attempt suicide every year who are not captured in formal data recording processes.
Individuals who have experienced a suicide attempt require support and care from personal and professional services and networks, including peer workers and other people with lived experience of suicide crisis and attempt.
What does the evidence tell us about people who have experienced a suicide attempt
People who have experienced a suicide attempt have a higher risk of dying by suicide then those who have not experienced a suicide attempt. The Australian Bureau of Statistics National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing found for the period of 2020-22, 5% of Australians aged 16-85 had attempted suicide during their lifetime.1
Suicide attempts impact individuals, families and communities. Data estimates 36% of Australians have been close to someone who experienced suicidal distress or attempted to take their own life.1
An additional unknown number of Australians attempt suicide every year of which are not captured in formal data recording processes.
For people who have experienced a suicide attempt, the risk of re-attempting suicide remains high throughout a person’s lifetime, but is particularly heightened in the initial year following an attempt.
Individuals who have experienced a suicide attempt require support and care from personal and professional services and networks.
Understanding protective and risk factors for suicide re-attempts in Australia would be enhanced with further research in this area.
Factors that may increase risk of suicide
- Experience of suicidal thoughts or having a suicide plan
- Presence of personality disorders or mental illness
- Substance use
- Living with comorbidities.
Factors that protect against risk of suicide
- Strong social connections and supports
- Compliance with individual care plans, including adhering to prescribed medication schedules and behavioural therapy
- Removing access to lethal means to reduce risk of further suicide attempt
- Awareness and access to help and support services
- A sense of purpose and identify in life
- Inclusion and acceptance.
What does this mean for policy and practice?
- Ensure that those who have experienced an attempt have appropriate services and care after an attempt
- Learn from people with the relevant lived experience.
It is important that the diversity of people with previous suicide attempt is acknowledged. Consideration should be given to other identity-driven needs a person with previous suicide attempt may have that can increase suicide risk, such as belonging to a population group identified as having increased risk of suicide: