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Friday, March 16, 2007

Suicide statistics stable but still too many lives cut short

  Public release date: 14-Mar-2007

Contact: Mardi Chapman
m.chapman@griffith.edu.au
61-755-529-089
Research Australia

Suicide statistics stable but still too many lives cut short

Suicide rates in Queensland have been relatively stable over recent years according to the latest available data but more than 500 deaths each year is no comfort to the many families and friends left behind.

A new report by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP) highlights the extent of the tragedy - with 1,715 deaths recorded during the period 2002-2004.

Just under 1,500 deaths were recorded in Queensland during the previous reporting period of 1999-2001.

Suicide in Queensland 2002-2004: Mortality rates and related data will be launched at the Premier’s Hall, Level 4, Parliamentary Annexe, Brisbane, today (Thursday, 15 March, 1pm) by Mr Stirling Hinchcliffe MP, Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister for Communities, Minister for Disability Services, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, and Minister for Seniors and Youth.

AISRAP director Professor Diego De Leo said the report confirmed that males were still much more vulnerable to the challenges of life than females, with four times more suicides in men than women.

The most vulnerable demographic group were men aged 25-34 years.

Professor De Leo said understanding the impact of divorce or separation on men and women was important to interpreting the discrepancy in suicide rates between the two sexes.

For that reason, AISRAP researchers are currently partnering with organisations such as Lifeline, Mensline and other support groups to investigate men’s experiences of relationship breakdowns.

"Separation can contribute to a sense of failure and social isolation along with the financial, emotional and other pressures associated with relocation and child custody issues. It appears to affect men much differently than women."

"Old age is also far more challenging for men than for women," he said.

The male to female ratio for deaths from suicide in 65-74 year olds is a staggering nine to one.

"Role changes such as retirement and the impact of physical illness with ageing can be humiliating for men who have traditionally seen themselves as the providers," Professor De Leo said.

"Their sense of worth and meaning in life appears to be strongly linked to employment and men need valid alternatives when their working life is over."

Other particularly at-risk groups identified in the report include Indigenous Australians, psychiatric patients and people in police custody or correctional facilities.

Professor De Leo said rural and remote regions of Queensland, particularly in the far north and the west, continued to have higher suicide rates than elsewhere in the state.

Mr Hinchcliffe said $2 million has been directed at suicide prevention strategies in Queensland each year since 2003 under the Queensland Government Suicide Prevention Strategy.

"The 2007 funding will be used to develop and support suicide prevention activities for high risk groups such as Indigenous people, rural and remote residents and young people," he said.

Specific Queensland Health initiatives include:

  • providing innovative methods of community and individual learning and support in four Aboriginal communities, and
  • a project to build emotional wellbeing in the Aboriginal community of Coen by providing culturally appropriate services.

Queensland Health has also increased funding for the Queensland Suicide Register which provides the basis for information contained in the Suicide in Queensland 2002-2004 report.

"We value our relationship with the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, whose work leads the way in building knowledge and skills in regard to effective suicide prevention in Queensland," Mr Hinchcliffe said.

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