Around 5 million Australians know someone who has died by suicide during the past 12 months of the pandemic, according to new research.
Social isolation, the economy, and jobs are driving suicide concerns, particularly among women.
The findings come from Suicide Prevention Australia’s second State of the Nation report, which will be officially released on this Friday’s World Suicide Prevention Day.
Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Nieves Murray said that history showed major increases in suicide were linked to major social and economic events, with Australia currently at high risk.
Groups thought to be most at risk include Australians living in regional and rural areas, LGBTIQ Australians, Indigenous Australians, and older Australians.
Young LGBTIQ people are three times as likely as the general population to attempt suicide, and young trans people are 15 times more likely.
“There have never been more lives lost to suicide in this country,” said Murray.
“Australia needs a national Suicide Prevention Act, and we need to act now.”
She said that suicide prevention goes beyond health portfolios.
“Housing is suicide prevention, employment is suicide prevention, finance is suicide prevention, and education is suicide prevention,” said Murray.
“We know social and economic isolation are the biggest drivers of suicide rates, and COVID-19 has seen Australians subject to 18 months of rolling lockdowns and disruption to their personal lives, employment, and businesses.
“We’ve seen how quickly COVID-19 cases can get out of hand, and we need to have the same national policy focus and vigilance to stop suicide rates doing the same.”
Two thirds of Australians agreed that all government decisions should consider the risk of suicide and have clear plans in place to mitigate any negative impacts.
Similarly, two thirds agreed that Australia should introduce a Suicide Prevention Act similar to the successful Japanese model, taking a whole-of-government approach to suicide prevention.
“The fact an overwhelming majority of Australians support this low-cost, low-risk, low-impact, high-outcome option should be the green light the Federal Government needs,” said Murray.
“The heightened economic and social threat posed by COVID-19 means we cannot afford to wait to legislate.”
If you or someone you know needs support, please refer to our list of community services and resources.