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Young, male or indigenous more likely to suicide: report

DIVORCE, alcohol use, and the number of jobs in agriculture were three of the main factors driving the suicide rate in regional and remote Australia, a new report from the National Suicide Prevention Strategy revealed on Tuesday.

And regional Australians who were young, male or indigenous were much more likely to suicide, the 105-page report showed.

The report was completed by a team of researchers at Griffith University for the Department of Health and Ageing, in order to better inform the government's response to suicide in regional and remote areas.

Researchers found male suicide rates in remote areas of Queensland averaged 36.32 per 100,000 men - nearly twice the rate in metropolitan areas, at 18.25 per 100,000 men.

"What is clear from the findings of the present report is the importance of recognising the unique experience associated with suicide in rural Australia," the report reads.

"Certainly, not all suicide risk and protective factors are unique to one region, locality or context; however, there were factors which appeared to impact more significantly in rural areas.

"Although not examined in this report, there is a need for further research into the past and continuing impacts of natural disasters, such as droughts and floods."

Mental Health Minister Mark Butler said the report highlighted the "unique challenges" of addressing suicide in rural and regional areas.

"Suicide is devastating for families and communities, and we know that rural, regional and remote communities face rates of suicide around 20-30% higher than in metropolitan areas," he said.

"It's important that we have up to date and comprehensive research to help inform the policy initiatives being rolled out on the ground in these communities."

Mr Butler did not announce any new initiatives to tackle rural mental health or suicide, but said the government had already committed $14 million for rural and remote areas, of the total $292 million national prevention strategy.

The report also found farmers were particularly likely to commit suicide, with a job associated with the natural elements, easier access to guns and the "stoicism" of men on the land likely to play a role.

But divorce in couples living in regional and remote areas was one of the leading causes of suicide, with the loss of family connections, loss of income associated with a divorce and legal proceedings factors more likely to lead to suicide.

The report also found religious people, those taking anti-depressants and better educated rural people were less likely to commit suicide, but still more likely than similar people in metropolitan areas.

Income was also a likely factor in suicide, with remote and regional men earning less than their metropolitan counterparts.

Report authors recommended more support be provided to people in difficult circumstances in rural areas, improving education and lifestyle in rural and regional areas.

It also found more research needed to be done into the area, with large gaps in the public knowledge about suicide, its causes, and how to prevent it.

People in need have various services they can contact for help.

You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636; Kid's Helpline on 1800 55 1800; Parentline on 1300 30 1300 (in Queensland) or 1300 1300 52 (in New South Wales).

Recommendations:

  • More recognition of the potential stressors associated with living and working in rural contexts from all governments, health service providers and the academic community
  • Providing greater social and economic support to persons experiencing difficult circumstances (e.g. drought, floods) in rural areas. This could help in alleviating financial stress
  • To facilitate further education and training of persons in rural contexts. Expanding the skill-base of persons residing in rural areas can allow greater social mobility and increase employment opportunities
  • Addressing the lifestyle risks associated with suicide in rural localities, including problems in balancing the competing demands of work and family, the inappropriate use of alcohol, and recognising and seeking help for mental or physical signs of stress
  • Encouraging the development of culturally appropriate and flexible sources of support

Topics:  griffith university suicide



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