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Lived experience of suicide attempts must play bigger role in prevention

While the slight decrease in the number of Australians dying from suicide should be welcomed, it is critical that suicide attempt survivors be engaged to ensure further prevention, argues SANE Australia.

In a statement, SANE welcomed the news that fewer people died from suicide last year than in 2017 (3,046 deaths in 2018 compared with 3,128 the year before) but noted that these are preliminary figures and that behind every death are a family, friends and a community.

In light of the still unacceptably high number of people taking their life each year, SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath called for the lived experience of suicide attempt survivors to play a bigger role in suicide prevention.

“If we are going to have any chance of reducing suicide deaths to zero, people who have survived a suicide attempt have a critical role to play in helping to design and improve the systems of support available for those of us experiencing life and mental health challenges,” he said.

“Each year, around 100,000 Australians attempt suicide and it is estimated that more than 500,000 Australians have attempted suicide at some time in their life. Very few have shared their story of survival.”

Suicide is complex, Mr Heath explained, and many factors contribute to suicidal thoughts and behaviours.

“For those of us who have lost a loved one to suicide, we know the devastation that follows as we try to pick up the pieces, but when you yourself are in that dark space, the concerns and care of loved ones and professionals are not always enough to keep you going,” he said.

“This is why we need to mobilise and give voice to those who’ve also been in that dark space but have found a path to recovery – we need to share their stories and their tools for life to inspire others.

“We also need to acknowledge that those of us living with complex mental health issues are 10-45 times more likely to die from suicide and this means we need increased levels of essential treatment and support.”

According to international research, people living with schizophrenia are 13 times more likely to take their own lives than the general population, SANE outlined, with those diagnosed with bipolar disorder, 17 times more likely; major depressive disorder, 20 times; anorexia nervosa, 31 times; and people living with borderline personality disorder are 45 times more likely to die by suicide than the general population.

“We are encouraged by Prime Minister [Scott] Morrison’s increased focus on suicide prevention and the recent appointment of Christine Morgan as the suicide prevention adviser, and we certainly hope that this initiative directs further investment into the appropriate areas so that the people who need assistance urgently can receive it sooner rather than later,” concluded Mr Heath.

For anyone in crisis, call:

• Lifeline 13 11 14
• Suicide Call Back Line 1800 659 467
• Mensline 1300 789 978
• KidsHelpline 1800 551 800

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