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Why are our suicide rates so high?

Most of us would assume the leading cause of death for both men and women aged 25-44 is either cancer or heart disease, but sadly, it’s suicide.

A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) outlining the state of the health of Australians has revealed a worrying trend: Suicide is the leading cause of death for both men and women aged 25-44.

What’s perhaps even more troubling is that this is nothing new. Suicide has been the leading cause of death for Australians aged 25-44 for many years.

In 2012, suicide rates in Australia reached a 10-year peak of 2,535, according to Lifeline — who, earlier in the year, issued a statement arguing that these grim statistics must lead to action.

“We believe suicide is mostly preventable so something has to change,” said Lifeline CEO, Jane Hayden.

“Suicide prevention is a whole of community responsibility including governments, corporations and individuals.”

Lifeline estimates that around 200 people per day attempt suicide — which is one new attempt every 10 minutes.

The state of our mental health

Mental illness is one of the contributing factors to suicide — so it’s not surprising that Australia’s rate of mental illness is also high. The AIHW report found that an estimated 20 per cent of Australian adults (or 3.2 million people) have experienced a mental disorder in the previous 12 months, and 45 per cent (or 7.3 million people) will experience a mental disorder at some point in their lifetime.

“Mental disorders” is an umbrella term which can include depression, anxiety and substance use disorders, as well as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

A suicide attempt can be a sign of a developing mental disorder and many individuals who commit suicide have experienced a mental disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder. If you think someone close to you could be at risk of a suicide attempt, it’s vital that you seek out immediate treatment for them.

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The root of the cause

Mental illness, such as depression, is often the result of a combination of recent events and other personal factors, according to Beyond Blue. They say it’s often difficult to pinpoint a sole cause of depression; however, research suggests that ongoing life struggles, such as long-term unemployment, abusive relationships, long-term isolation/loneliness and prolonged work-related stress, are contributing factors.

If you suspect someone you know is suffering from depression, Lifeline suggests you reach out to them and ask them directly if they are considering suicide — this shows you care and are aware of their feelings. Lifeline also advises listening to them and allowing them to do most of the talking, checking their safety if you are worried to leave them alone, making them promise to tell someone if they have suicidal thoughts, taking action to keep them safe and getting help.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years) on 1800 551 800.

More on mental health

Mental health issues in kids on the rise
Mental effects of exercise
Is self-doubt killing your career?

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