Youth suicide rate hits 10-year high

A suicide prevention overhaul is necessary as the youth suicide rate has hit a 10-year high, according to a new report. 

Suicide rates among Australian men and women aged between 15 and 24 are the highest in a decade. Rates among young women aged between 15 and 19 doubled between 2005 and 2015.  

Youth suicides were about twice as likely to occur in a "cluster" than adult suicides.

The Raising the bar for youth suicide prevention report analysed statistics, policy and services, and called for an updated national suicide prevention strategy featuring a youth specific suicide prevention plan. The federal government was “reinvigorating” its suicide prevention strategy at publishing time, the report said. 

The report, released on Wednesday by Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, identified Tasmania as the only state or territory in Australia with its own separate youth suicide prevention strategy. Mental Health Council of Tasmania chief executive Connie Digolis said individual communities need to have ‘postvention’ supports in place to assist the community after someone takes their life. 

“Reports such as Orygen’s highlight the need to do further research around young people and other vulnerable population groups so ... we can ensure that suicide prevention initiatives are tailored to the needs of those specific groups,” Ms Digolis said. 

The report also detailed data regarding “unacceptably high” self-harm trends among young Australians.

The report said there was an “urgent” need to understand how online technologies could be utilised within suicide prevention. Health Minister Michael Ferguson said key actions under the Youth Suicide Prevention Plan 2016-20, including building the capacity of schools to support young people who may be at-risk or impacted by suicide, were being implemented. The state government launched the plan in March 2016. 

“Every life lost to suicide is one too many,” Mr Ferguson said.

“However, it should be recognised that the largest demographic of Tasmanians taking their own lives is men broadly aged 34-54 years old which ... our strategy responds to.” 

Orygen Head of Suicide Prevention Research Dr Jo Robinson said a “new approach to suicide prevention is clearly needed”. 

“Young people told us loud and clear that we should be less afraid to talk openly about suicide, including in school settings,” Dr Robinson said. 

The report's recommendations included developing regional responses that meet the needs of young people. Federal government comment was sought. 

If you need help, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636

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