Suicide and attempted suicide affect not only the individual committing the act, but friends, relatives, colleagues, family members and children. Therefore, statistically almost everyone in Australia is going to be affected by thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide or death from suicide.
There are approximately 2000 deaths from suicide per year in Australia at present. This is a big improvement from a peak of 2700 suicides in 1997 down to 2,200 suicides in 2007, despite our large increase in population. It is estimated that more young people die from suicide than from car accidents. 80% of deaths from suicide occur in males, and 80% of all suicide attempts occur in females, so nobody is immune.
In many parts of the Western world suicide rates increased rapidly until the late 1990’s, and have slowly been falling for almost 10 years. Many researches believe that better diagnosis and treatment of depression has caused this fall in suicide rates. This fall is matched by the use of antidepressants in 15 countries studied. The lower use of antidepressants in young people in the past few years has similarly been correlated with a rise in suicide rates eg 14% increase in young people in USA.
Thoughts of Suicide:
Research suggests that about 5% of the population will have thoughts about being dead in any 12 month period. Such vague, fleeting ideas are probably not of concern, as our brains consider many options when faced with problems.
However, seeing death as an attractive option, or wishing that one was dead, or envying people who have died, are not normal thoughts, and usually suggest depression or some other illness, which will benefit from treatment and assistance. Thoughts of how to end one’s life, and making preparations for plans to do so, are very serious, and you are urged to talk to somebody about such thoughts and actions if they apply to you. When people recover from depression, they cannot believe they had thoughts similar to yours.
Medical research confirms that the vast majority of such deaths occur in people who have depression, or who suffer from other illnesses such as schizophrenia, panic attacks, or alcohol or drug problems. If these illnesses had been treated, such deaths might well have been prevented in a significant number of cases.
For every death from suicide, it is estimated there are 10-30 times as many attempted suicides or episodes of deliberate self-harm. People commit deliberate self-harm in an attempt to end their lives, but also in an attempt to simply seek oblivion or to be “out of it”. It must be remembered that those who have attempted suicide are much more at risk than the rest of the population of eventually repeating the act, but dying on the next attempt. This is particularly the case for males who have attempted suicide and remained alive. It is estimated that 5% of such males will eventually die from suicide, and 2% of women who have survived deliberate self-harm will eventually die from suicide.
Effective diagnosis and treatment of depression, and also of schizophrenia and alcohol problems, will drastically reduce suicide rates. Also, limiting or preventing access to easy means of suicide will reduce suicide rates.
Comparisons with Other Countries:
Based on 2002 figures from the World Health Organization, the world’s highest suicide rates (starting from the worst) are the Russian Federation, Hungary, Finland, Japan and Belgium.
The lowest suicide rates are reported (starting from the lowest) as Greece, Italy, Brazil, Spain, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.