Gerry Georgatos – Tragically, 2019, will report the highest ever Australian suicide toll. I estimate in excess of 3,200 Australian lives lost. Alarmingly, Victoria will report its highest ever suicide toll, thereabouts 700 lives lost. NSW and Queensland will each report thereabouts 800 lives lost.
Much of the commitments by our Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments early last year, in responding to extensive news coverage of suicidality, has not translated to expenditure. And what little is being spent, the majority of it does not ‘hit the ground’ – it is not invested in outreach, not invested in the 24/7, not invested in high needs community-based resourcing and in acute and subacute wellbeing healthcare external to hospital systems.
Tragically, 2019, will also report that the harrowing tragedy of First Nations suicides continues to escalate.
Our nation will reduce the suicides crises when we systematically recalibrate psychosocial supports, outreach counselling supports. Assertive outreach, 24/7 where possible, intense and relentless psychosocial supports, are the missing lifesaving links. We all know this but the funding for this simple systemic recalibration is not occurring. But it must occur.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, last year there were 158,493 registered deaths of which 3,046 were registered as suicides. Intentional self-harm was the 14th leading cause of death. It has the lowest median age at death of among the top 20 leading causes, at 44.4 years of age. Suicide is the 5th leading cause of death for First Nations peoples and with a dramatically much lower median age at death.
The suicide toll will be record high for 2019, for both Australia and disaggregated to First Nations.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2018, suicide was the leading cause of death for both First Nations children and non-Indigenous children aged 5 to 17. Dramatically, in 2018, children aged 15 to 17 accounted for 69.2 percent of all child suicides, while females accounted for 61.5 percent of child suicide deaths.
The First Nations suicide toll for 2019 will be higher than the previous highest of 169 registered suicides (2018). We may have passed 200 suicides. I estimate we are either close to 200, or past 200, for 2019.
Victoria’s suicide toll for 2018 was 593, with its highest toll, 678, recorded in 2015, and a steady decline since – 639, 621, 593 – but 2019 will record thereabouts 700.
A decade ago, NSW was recording suicide tolls in the 600s – 623, 674, 617 – since 2015, NSW has recorded 839, 818, 818, 899.
A decade ago, Queensland was recording suicide toll in the 500s – 525, 588, 578 – but in 2017 and 2018, Queensland recorded 804 and 786 suicides.
Western Australia’s suicide toll has increased from 279 in 2009 to 409 in 2017 and 383 in 2018 and will once again be thereabouts 400.
The Australian suicide toll has increased from 2,337 in 2009 to 3,093 in 2015, 3,128 in 2017, 3,046 in 2008 and I estimate 3,200 for 2019.
We should not lose focus of the increasing toll and in part move away from focus on rates, which diminish human life. Our focus on the road fatalities, in terms of the total number of fatalities as opposed to rates as per number of people licensed to drive or number of cars registered, has led to the reduction of the road toll over the last three decades. We are reducing the number of road fatalities despite an increasing population. Similarly, we must focus on reducing the suicide toll and not convolute with rates.
One in 50 Australian deaths is a suicide. That’s harrowing. One in 17 First Nations deaths is a suicide. That’s abomination. To change these horrific stats, we need to do as we are doing with road fatalities, focus on the total number. As we have reduced the road toll, so too we can reduce the suicide toll. In my experience, the majority of suicides were preventable.
Australia is only several years away from 4,000 suicides annually, unless we do now what we have not thus far.
In the first decade of this century, the suicide toll was in the 1000s and 2000s and now it is in the 3,000s.
In the first decade of this century First Nations suicides were on average 100 per year, and in the last few years an average 160, and in the next few years 200.
How does the suicide toll have to get?
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