New Cause Of Death Report Shows Surge In Suicide Rate

More than 3000 Australians died by suicide in 2017, as mental health organisations beg for action on the "preventable" deaths.

“Suicide in Australia is increasing at the same time as deaths from most physical illnesses are decreasing," said Lifeline chairman John Brogden.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its annual Causes of Death report on Wednesday, outlining how people died in 2017.  More than 160,000 deaths were recorded last year -- 82,858 males and 78,051 females -- with the leading causes of death being ischaemic heart disease (18,590 deaths), dementia (13,729), cerebrovascular diseases (10,186) and chronic lower respiratory diseases (8,357).

Intentional self-harm came in at number 13 on the list, with 3,128 deaths. Experts are particularly concerned about this number because while many other top causes of death remained steady or declined over recent years, suicide deaths went up by more than nine percent between 2016 and 2017.

The average age of suicide death was 44. Men were three times more likely to die by suicide than women, at 19 deaths per 100,000.

"3,128 people died last year from a mostly preventable illness. This is an outrage and it is no longer acceptable," Brogden said.

“This increase in Australian lives shattered, must be met with a plan of action."

Brogden called on the federal government to build a national suicide reduction program, including a target to reduce self-harm deaths.

“We must set a target to focus Governments’ funding and the community on suicide reduction," he said.

“We should say as a nation that we want zero suicides and we are starting with a target to reduce suicide in Australia by 25 percent in the next five years.”

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NSW recorded the most suicide deaths with 880, with Queensland next on 804 and Victoria on 621.  The Northern Territory and Queensland had the highest rates of suicide, with 20.3 and 16.3 deaths per 100,000 population respectively.

On Wednesday, prior to the ABS report being publicly released, federal health minister Greg Hunt announced the government would invest $36 million into national suicide prevention projects.

"The funding, through the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program, will help to deliver important awareness and stigma reduction activities, research, and leadership through variety of projects. These initiatives aim to reduce deaths by suicide across Australia," Hunt said in a statement.

"Suicide is a national tragedy... one life lost to suicide is one too many."

Hunt said organisations like Suicide Prevention Australia, OzHelp, R U OK?m Reach Out and Everymind would share in funding.

Elsewhere in the ABS report, trends in causes of death have been outlined by comparing 2017 figures to those from 2012 and 2008. Deaths from heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, urinary disease, heart failure and melanoma remained steady or decreased between 2008 and 2017. However, dementia deaths rose rapidly over that period, as did deaths from lower respiratory disease, influenza and pneumonia, and accidental falls.

"The number of deaths from Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease has increased by 68.0 percent over the past decade," the ABS said.

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"2017 was noted for having a particularly bad flu season and this led to an increased number of influenza deaths, although it should be noted that pneumonia still accounted for the majority of deaths in this category."

The leading causes of death among women was dementia, with 8,859 deaths, while among men the leading cause was ischaemic heart disease with 10,514 deaths.

For more information, see the ABS Causes Of Death report.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.