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ABS suicide data shows need for new approaches to prevention

Logo for Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention

19 October 2022

Despite predictions of increased suicides as a result of the pandemic, the 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics Causes of Death data released today shows that Australian suicide rates have not increased.

This is quite remarkable given the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bushfires and floods that continue to impact our communities. It is possible that recent suicide prevention initiatives and economic support measures have had a protective effect.

However, the Black Dog Institute remains concerned about suicide levels and distress in First Nations peoples and young women.

Despite significant investments to Close the Gap, the suicide rate for First Nations peoples has been increasing over the last decade. The current data show that the rate of suicide in 5-17 year old children is still much higher for First Nations youth (7.4 per 100,000) compared to nonIndigenous youth (2.3 per 100,000).

“Our recent Youth Depression Report also shows there are increasing disturbances in social and emotional wellbeing for young First Nations peoples,” says Black Dog Institute Director First Nations Strategy and Partnerships, Dr Clinton Schultz.

“It is obvious that current prevention and intervention strategies are not adequate. More holistic approaches are needed for all aspects of First Nations social and emotional wellbeing so that we can stop this upward trend in suicide rates, especially in First Nations young people.”

The number of young people in distress and particularly young women presenting to hospital for self-harm also continues to be a concern. The new data showed that, for females who died by suicide, personal history of self-harm was the most common risk factor for those aged under 25 years.

“This is concerning because other recent national data shows a trend of increasing rates of hospital presentations due to intentional self-harm, for young people under 25. For young women, there has been a threefold increase from 2008-9 to 2020-21 in the rate of self-harm hospitalisations,” says Black Dog Institute Head of Suicide Prevention Research, Associate Professor Fiona Shand.

“Self-harm is not well understood, and we urgently need a platform to initiate discussions around what we do and don’t know about the causes of these increases, so we can better address it.

“This is why we have called a Summit on Self-Harm with world-leading researchers, clinicians and lived experience experts to address some of the challenges and solutions and look at why our young people are experiencing distress.”

The Black Dog Summit on Self-Harm will be held on Thursday, 10 November at Doltone House, Jones Bay Wharf, Sydney. To view the full program and register visit www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/summit-self-harm 

Media enquiries: Jo Hocking – 0410 615 570 or jo.hocking@blackdog.org.au  

If you or someone you know needs help or support, you can contact your local Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisation or

  • Lifeline: 131 114
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
  • Mensline: 1300 78 99 78
  • Beyondblue 1300 22 46 36
  • Q Life 1800 18 45 27
  • Open Arms Veterans & Families Counselling 1800 01 10 46
  • The National Indigenous Critical Response Service 1800 80 58 01
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