Suicide Prevention Network
The way we think about suicide is not working in regional and remote Australia, with a new report showing rural suicide rates are more than 50 per cent higher than in the capital cities.
The Rural Suicide Prevention Position Paper, released by the Centre for Remote and Rural Mental Health late last year, shows despite 161 fewer deaths by suicide in Australia in 2016, the rate per 100,000 people was 15.3 in the bush and 10 in the capitals.
The centre reported the rate of Indigenous suicide from 2012 to 2016 was 23.7 people per 100,000 – more than twice the rate of non-Indigenous Australians during the same period.
Centre director David Perkins said while evidence to inform suicide prevention in rural areas was not perfect, it should not prevent government and communities from taking action.
“We believe the higher rates of suicide in rural and remote Australia and the upward trend in rural suicide rates are not acceptable,” Professor Perkins said.
“Decreasing the suicide rates is not just the responsibility of the health sector; it goes beyond health.”
The paper proposes five focus areas to address suicide rates.
The first is immediate action on strategies to prevent people who experience suicidality from taking their own lives. The second is to help those who are affected by the suicide of others.
The remaining three look further into the future, including suggestions on how to better support vulnerable groups, build protective factors in children and young people, and build healthy and resilient people and communities.
Prof Perkins said the paper drew on suggestions and ideas from participants who attended the centre’s Suicide Prevention Forum at the Sydney Royal Easter Show, and also from the centre’s own experience and research.
One recommendation is that states should establish their own policy units, including regional representation, to advise the Premier and cabinet on rural suicide prevention.
Local communities also have a role to play, according to the report, and are best placed to identify local opportunities for prevention.
“It can’t be one size fits all approach; these strategies must consider the unique social, economic and environmental strengths and weaknesses that exist in individual rural communities,” Prof Perkins said.