Suicide Prevention

30th October 2019

Matters of Interest 

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS (15:25): The Australian Bureau of Statistics causes of death data for 2018 was released on 25 September this year, and it includes the national suicide statistics. It is important to remember that each of these numbers represents an individual life lost, a life which was valued and will be missed. I acknowledge the individuals, families, carers, colleagues and communities impacted by every suicide. 

The suicide statistics reveal that nationally in 2018, 3,046 people lost their lives to suicide, a decrease of 2.6 per cent from 3,128 people in 2017. The total suicide rate across Australia dropped from 12.7 per 100,000 in 2017 to 12.2 per 100,000. The country suicide rate across Australia dropped from 16.6 to 15.9, a decrease of 4.2 per cent. The metropolitan suicide rate across Australia dropped from 10.7 in 2017 to 10.3 in 2018. Deaths by suicide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people totalled 796 people across Australia, a rate of 23.7 per 100,000. A large increase occurred in the proportion of deaths by suicide nationally for 15 to 19 year olds. 

Within South Australia in 2018, 212 people died by suicide—154 males and 58 females—a decrease of 5.6 per cent on the numbers in 2017. The total suicide rate in South Australia dropped from 12.8 per 100,000 to 12.0 per 100,000, bringing South Australia below the national total suicide rate. Metropolitan Adelaide had the same number of suicides in 2017 and 2018, being 158 deaths, a rate of 11.5 per 100,000. Country South Australia suicides decreased from 65 deaths in 2017 to 51 in 2018. 

The statistics emphasise the need to establish more suicide prevention networks aligned to metropolitan local government boundaries, and I assure the council that I am doing all I can to encourage that. Currently, there are 37 suicide prevention networks in South Australia, with two under development, but of those, 32 are regional and the metropolitan ones are largely in the outer metropolitan areas. 

In discussing suicide, it is important that we get the language right. Only earlier this week we had a national round table on suicide in Adelaide with the former director of the Everymind group in Newcastle, which has done such terrific work on the consideration of language used when discussing suicide. The problematic terms include ‘successful suicide’ and ‘unsuccessful suicide’. The preferred terms are ‘died by suicide’ or ‘took their own life’. Equally, the terms ‘committed suicide’ or ‘commit suicide’ are problematic terms, whereas ‘took their own life’ or ‘died by suicide’ are much more preferable to the community that works very hard in this area but also to the families concerned. 

Also described as problematic is the use of words such as ‘failed suicide’ or ‘suicide bid’ where in both cases the word ‘attempt’ should be used. Finally, in relation to gratuitous use of the term ‘suicide’, certainly ‘political suicide’ or ‘suicide mission’ should not be used. We should just refrain from using the term ‘suicide’ out of context. As I said earlier, it is a complex issue. All the statistics relate to a person, a family, the friends and all the people they have worked with or played sport with. We have evidence that at least 135 people are impacted by every suicide.