According to various states’ coroners reports, suicide rates in Australia are amongst the highest the country has ever seen…
Victoria has recorded its highest number of annual suicides since the coroner’s court started collecting suicide data in 2000. In 2022 there were 756 suicides in Victoria, a 9% increase compared with 2021. New South Wales recorded 964 suspected or confirmed suicide deaths in 2022. In 2010 that number was 674.
Queensland recorded 813 suspected or confirmed deaths by suicide in 2021, an increase from 2020 (778) and the highest number of suicides of Queensland residents in a calendar year. Western Australia (389) and South Australia (226) also recorded comparatively high suicide rates in 2021, with 2022 data set to reveal similarly high numbers.
Overall, suicide mortality rate in Australia (the number of suicide deaths in a year per 100,000 of the population) has been on an upward trend for almost two decades. In 2004 the suicide rate sat at 10.3, in 2021 that number had shot up to 12. However, with 2022 data trickling in from states around the country, there’s a concern that suicide numbers could see a sharp spike in the wrong direction.
While we can’t be sure of what is driving the trend just yet, it’s safe to say that people have been facing varying challenges over the last three or four years, including the recent long-term pandemic impacts and financial stressors caused by increased interest rates and high cost of living. With these factors almost sure to persist throughout 2023, it appears action to reduce the incidence of suicide in Australia is vital.
Early intervention is important
According to the Australian National Bureau of Statistics, between 2021 and 2022, 1 in 6 (16.7% or around 3.3 million) of Australians aged 16–85 had serious thoughts about taking their own life at some point in their lives. While the vast majority of those don’t go on to develop a suicide plan or take their own lives, these numbers are unacceptably high.
Increasing accessibility to mental health support and eliminating the stigma around the topic are two important avenues to potentially limit the number of people who act on their suicidal thoughts. However, one could argue that early preventative measures that reduce the number of people who think about suicide in the first place is just as important.
Early intervention can be achieved in two different ways:
1. Reaching out for mental health support before it gets to crisis point
A mental health professional can provide a safe place to talk about your mental health and help you put measures in place to resolve your issues when they are impacting your general thinking and quality of life. However, too many use this service as a last resort — often when they feel at crisis point.
EAP and counselling services don’t have to be utilised at the last minute. They are also there for when you feel bogged down or when your mental health is stopping you from doing the things you want to do.
2. Maintaining a level of mental fitness
We know that when we do lots of cardiovascular or resistance exercise, we become more physically fit as we develop and strengthen our muscles. This logic can be applied to mental health too, and it’s called mental fitness.
Regularly investing in mental health exercises can help us to respond to any given situation, whether that situation is a forethought, an external stimulus, or a feeling. As a result, we are less likely to sustain emotional injury.
There are four key areas that encompass your mental fitness: Mind, Body, Spirit and Community.
Your state of mind during any given situation is a key factor in how you act and make decisions. If you’re in a good state of mind, you’re more likely to perceive an external shock in a more positive light and, therefore, be better equipped to deal with the setback. To improve your mental fitness, you can:
- Try something that is outside your comfort zone.
- Change your mindset when you fail to tell yourself that “I might need to work on this for longer to get better” rather than “I’m not good at this”.
- Acknowledge and embrace imperfections as part of life and view challenges as opportunities to try something new.
- Take breaks from social media.
- Take moments to pay attention to things around you such as the breeze in the air or a bird in the sky.
- Engage in prayer or meditation.
The mind and body are a complex inter-connected system that is so important to your mental health. Ultimately, looking after your physical health has a major impact on the brain and our moods. There are a number of aspects of mental fitness related to ‘body’, including:
1. Exercise — Exercise does more than help your muscles. It also improves mood, reduces stress, increases self-esteem, decreases cognitive decline and reduces feelings of depression and anxiousness.
2. Nutrition — The relationship between our diet and our mental health is complex. However, research shows a link between what we eat and how we feel.
3. Sleep — Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night diminishes our immune system, increases our risk of cancer, stroke and congestive heart failure, and contributes to all major mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety.
Spirituality encourages people to have better relationships with themselves, others, and the unknown. It can help you deal with stress by giving you a sense of peace, purpose, and forgiveness. There are two key categories in ‘spirit’, these are:
- Connection with nature — Numerous studies have demonstrated that people surrounded by trees have better mental health outcomes than people who live in a home without greenery or easy access to it. Improving your connection with nature is simple, you can walk through a green park, cultivate a garden, and even meditate or pray.
- Finding meaning in work — Because we spend so much time in the workplace, finding a sense of purpose is vitally important to the overall enjoyment of our lives. Discovering this sense of purpose doesn’t necessarily lie in changing your job, but rather changing your perspective of it. So, work out what drives you and what purpose you’re fulfilling in your job.
People who are more socially connected to family, friends, or their community are happier, physically healthier and live longer, with fewer mental health problems than people who are less well connected. Community encompasses two key factors:
- Social connection — Research has shown that loneliness increases the prominence of depression, along with a number of negative physical health impacts like cognitive performance, immune system, vascular problems, inflammation and heart disease. So, friendships and human connections, no matter how small they may seem, are vitally important to our mental health.
- Giving — When we give our bodies produce feel-good hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. The great thing about giving is that these hormones are addictive! So, if you give once, then you’re more likely to want to do it again. You can receive the wellbeing boost that giving provides by spending money on others, spending time with others, performing acts of kindness, or even making someone laugh.
Whether you have suicidal thoughts or whether your mental health is impacting your everyday life, talking to a mental health counsellor can help. Call one of our friendly team on 130 687 327 or visit our website (https://convergeinternational.com.au) to get in touch with a mental health professional.