More about suicide –
Article from Mental Health Victoria
Over 3,000 Australians die from suicide each year, with mental health conditions being a significant risk factor. It’s estimated that 5% of Australians have ever attempted to take their own life.
This equates to an average of 8.57 deaths by suicide in Australia each day. This is more than double the road toll.
Research indicates that mental health conditions such as depression, psychosis and substance use are associated with an increased risk of suicide. Experiencing risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean a person will think about or attempt to take their own life.
Protective factors can reduce suicide risk, particularly effective mental health care, counselling, social support and connectedness.
The relationship between mental health and suicide
Often people who are considering suicide are dealing with a combination of mental ill-health and difficult life events. Symptoms such as very low mood, negative thinking, severe anxiety, and psychosis can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Researchers believe that some people who end their own lives do not actually want to die, but feel there is no other option to relieve them of their pain. Some might experience a sense of hopelessness, and feel that things cannot get better. Those who do take their own life may feel overwhelmed, seeking release from their distress.
But with effective treatment, social support and time, many who have tried to end their life, or considered ending their life, can go on to live full and meaningful lives.
Other risk factors for suicide
It is important to understand that suicide is the result of many factors in a person’s life and not one particular event or discussion. Suicide is complex: there is no single explanation.
Aside from mental health conditions, contributing factors to being at risk of suicide may include:
- substance abuse
- chronic health issues, or physical disability
- feelings of isolation or helplessness
- negative life events (abuse, significant loss, financial crisis)
- previous suicide attempt or exposure to suicide behaviour in others.
Men, people living in rural and remote regions, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people also have a higher rate of suicide.
Suicide warning signs
People who take their own life sometimes display warning signs beforehand. For people who are experiencing a mental health condition, sometimes this might look like an increase or escalation in symptoms. Some warning signs include:
- expressions of hopelessness or helplessness
- an overwhelming sense of shame or guilt
- a dramatic change in personality or appearance, or irrational or bizarre behaviour
- changed eating or habits
- a drop in school or work performance
- a lack of interest in things previously important, and the future
- writing, speaking or joking about , death or dying or intention
- giving away possessions and putting affairs in order
- suddenly seeming ‘at peace’
- increasing and use
- withdrawing from friends, family or society.
What to do if a relative or friend lets you know they are suicidal
If you think a friend or relative is at risk, discuss your concerns with them openly and non-judgmentally. Rather than putting the idea of suicide into someone’s head, a supportive conversation gives them the opportunity to talk about their distress.
Encourage or help the person to access professional help, such as their mental health professional or a support helpline, such as:
If the person is at serious risk of suicide, stay with them if possible and contact the psychiatric emergency team at your . Or call 000, explaining the person is suicidal, has made a plan, and you have concerns for their safety. Keep these numbers readily available in case you need urgent help.
After a suicide attempt
For family and friends, a suicide attempt can bring a range of intense and unexpected emotions that can change quickly and unpredictably. There is no right or wrong way to react.
Supporting a person who has attempted suicide can be stressful and overwhelming. It is important to look after yourself. Catch up regularly with friends, family members and significant others, and make time for yourself. Access support services, groups or health professionals to talk about how you feel.
Learn about suicide risk factors and behaviour to look out for. It is important to not blame yourself for the suicide attempt. If someone is determined to end their life, it can be very difficult to stop them.
If you have suicidal thoughts
Feeling suicidal means feeling more pain than you can cope with at the time. Thoughts of suicide are only thoughts. Having them does not mean you need to act on them. Try to remember that with help, you can feel better and keep yourself safe. People get through this. You can too.
Some ways to stay safe when experiencing suicidal thoughts include:
- Tell someone how you feel – a family member, trusted friend or teacher.
- Ask them to stay with you until you get help.
- Call your local hospital and ask for the .
- Go to your , psychologist, or other mental health professional.
- Call a crisis helpline – they’re listed at the end of this article.
- Call 000.
Think about another time in your life when you might have faced similarly stressful circumstances. What did you do to cope? Can you do the same things now?
- Stay focused on the present – worrying about whether things will improve often just leads to feeling more overwhelmed. Try breaking up your day and planning a short activity that will distract you. Then plan your next activity once you’ve finished that one.
- Create a safety plan or draw upon one you have already developed. Try using – a free safety planning app created by . It can help you if you’re having suicidal thoughts and distress.
- Try relaxation techniques.
- Follow up with your health professionals. A change in any medication and treatment may help reduce any suicidal thoughts.
- Remember you do not have to act on suicidal thoughts. They will pass in time, despite how overwhelming they may feel.
Where to get help
- Tel. (Monday – Friday, 10 am–10 pm AEST)
- are full of people who want to talk to you and offer support.
- Tel. (24 hours)
- Tel. (24 hours)
- Tel. 1300 659 467 (24 hours)
- Tel. (24 hours)
- Tel. (midday to 3 am AEST, 7 days)
- Tel. (24 hours)
More Information About Suicide from HealthDirect –
What is suicide?
Suicide is the act of deliberately ending your own life. More than 65,000 Australians attempt suicide each year, and 3,139 Australians died by suicide in 2020.
In Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 49 years old.
Suicidal behaviour can range from thinking about suicide (often referred to as ‘suicide ideation’), to making plans then attempting suicide and, in the most tragic cases, death by suicide.
What are the risk factors for suicide?
Suicide is complex, and there are many factors that might lead a person to experience suicidal thoughts or behaviours. Suicidal ideation can be the result of psychological, social, environmental or situational factors.
No one can predict who will take their own life. But there are some risk factors to look out for, which can include:
- stressful life events, such as financial or legal problems, or a relationship breakdown
- physical illness
- current mental illness, such as depression
- a history of mental illness or a previous suicide attempt
- misusing drugs or alcohol more than the person normally would
- poor living conditions, homelessness or poverty
- family violence or sexual assault or abuse
Are there ‘protective’ factors for suicide?
There are ways you can help to protect both yourself and others from suicidal thoughts or actions.
The most important long-term protective factor is to actively improve mental health. Building resilience helps protect a person’s mental health since it helps them overcome everyday challenges, as well as difficult periods in life.
Having strong, healthy relationships with family and friends is shown to improve resilience and build strength for when things get tough.
There is also some evidence that religious or spiritual practice can have a positive impact on mental health, helping with conditions such as anxiety and depression. For some people, spirituality can increase connectedness and resilience, and may protect against mental distress.
However, for others, participation in religion can lead to feelings of judgement, alienation and exclusion.
Another protective factor is good access to health services. Being able to get professional help is key to increasing resilience and to reducing suicidal behaviour.
Who is more at risk of suicide?
There are clear risk factors for suicide; however, many people in an at-risk group don’t take their own life. And people who are not in a risk group still die by suicide.
People in the following groups are more at risk of suicide:
Males account for 3 in every 4 deaths by suicide in Australia. This may be because Australian men are less likely to seek help from friends, family or professionals when it comes to their mental health. Talking openly with the men in their life might encourage them to share their feelings.
The suicide rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is higher than in the general Australian population. As many suicides go unreported in the indigenous community, it is likely that the true rate is even higher. Limited access to mental health services may be a contributing factor. Social and cultural factors mean that Indigenous Australians might experience grief, loss and separation differently from other groups.
Children and young people
Children and young people might attempt suicide after having a close family member die by suicide. If you know any children who are affected by suicide in their family, it’s especially important to support them and keep communicating with them.
Children who are bullied, either face to face or online, are also at greater risk of suicidal thoughts.
Previous suicidal behaviour
People with any history of previous suicidal behaviour are more than 30 times more likely to die by suicide than are members of the general population. It’s important to keep supporting anyone who has attempted suicide in the past.
People with mental illness
There’s a strong link between suicidal behaviours and many mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcohol and other substance-use disorders, and personality disorders.
Be aware of other signs of distress or helplessness since people with suicidal thoughts often don’t show overt signs of mental illness.
Sexually and gender-diverse (LGBTIQA+) people
The stigma and discrimination experienced by some gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex youth can significantly impact their mental health and contribute to social isolation or family rejection. This can increase the risk of suicide.
People who are LGBTIQA+ often suffer in silence. Offering your support will help protect any LGBTIQA+ friends from suicidal thoughts.
Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people
Around 1 in 6 Australians speak a language other than English at home. Among some cultures, there’s a stigma surrounding mental health issues that discourages people from seeking help.
People from CALD backgrounds may also be at higher risk of suicide due to social isolation, separation from family and community, language barriers that reduce access to services, and financial stress.
However, older people tend to have established relationships with doctors, which can help protect against suicide.
It’s important to watch out for the wellbeing of older people in your family, neighbourhood and community.
What are some of the warning signs of suicide?
It’s not always obvious that a person is struggling with suicidal thoughts, but they might:
- describe feeling helpless, hopeless or worthless
- stop wanting to do the things they usually enjoy
- stop replying to your messages, calls or emails, or become ‘distant’
- become agitated or have emotional outbursts
- withdraw from friends, family or regular activities — such as work or school
- talk about not being alive anymore
Sometimes there are no warning signs of suicide at all. So, if someone you care about is at risk (see, ‘What are the risk factors for suicide?’), ask if they are OK and keep communicating with them.
How do I talk to a person who has suicidal thoughts?
If someone is in immediate danger, call triple zero (000).
Conversations are important and could save a life. Talking about suicide will not be the cause of someone’s suicide. Here are some tips for talking to a person with suicidal thoughts:
- Find the right time. Timing is important when broaching any sensitive topic. You can start a conversation by saying something such as, “I’m worried about you. You told me the other day that you don’t want to be alive anymore. Do you still feel that way?”
- Don’t keep it to yourself. Even if the person has asked you not to share your conversation with others, it’s important that you do tell someone.
- Encourage the person to get help. It may seem hard for them at first, but they should talk to a doctor, counsellor or psychologist, or call a helpline such as Lifeline (13 11 14).
- Be available to them. Reassure the person that you can support them. Knowing you care will help them to feel less alone.
- Ask the person to delay their decision. Remind them that suicidal thoughts are just thoughts and don’t have to become actions. Over time, and with help, they may find that their suicidal thoughts go away.
You can also read up on suicide to better understand what the person may be going through.
Remember to look after yourself. Helping a suicidal person can make you feel stressed or overwhelmed, so it’s important that you find someone to talk to as well.
What should I do if someone is going to attempt suicide?
- Stay calm and stay with the person.
- Call triple zero (000) and tell the operator that someone is suicidal.
- Keep yourself safe. Ask for the police if the person is being aggressive or threatening towards you.
- Don’t leave the person alone.
Resources and support
- Call Lifeline (24-hour crisis support) on 13 11 14 or chat online.
- Contact the Suicide Call Back Service (phone and online counselling) — 1300 659 467.
- Kids Helpline offers online and phone counselling to young people aged 5 to 25 — call 1800 55 1800 or chat online.
- Beyond Blue provides information, counselling and support for mental health — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
- Beyond Now is a phone app that helps a person stay safe when experiencing suicidal thoughts.
State- and territory-based services
- ACT — Mental Health Triage Crisis and Assessment Team 1800 629 354
- NSW — NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
- NT — Northern Territory Mental Health Line 1800 682 288
- QLD — 13 HEALTH 13 43 25 84
- SA — Mental Health Assessment and Crisis Intervention Service 13 14 65
- TAS — Mental Health Services Helpline 1800 332 388
- VIC — The Royal Melbourne Hospital Mental Health Service (03) 9342 7000
- WA — Mental Health Emergency Response Line 1300 555 788