Northern suburbs suicide stories highlight national crisis

Stock image.
Stock image.

A NORTHERN suburbs group wants to see more work done to prevent suicide and support families facing mental health challenges.

Lions Club of Whitford president Philip Couper spoke out about suicide statistics following the funeral of a Tapping father-of-three in September.

Advocating for more mental health services, Mr Couper said the club continued to receive requests for help, which included 43 requests relating to suicide in 2018 and 22 in the first six months of this year.

“Australia faces a real emergency, that is the health, safety and welfare of our fellow Australians,” he said.

“Suicide is still the leading cause of death for Australians between the ages of 15 and 44.

“It’s also estimated that for every suicide, 30 people attempt to end their lives, which equates to approximately 65,000 suicide attempts yearly.”

Phil Couper.

Speaking at a Family Law and Child Support Community Forum in Mandurah in August, Mr Couper said one case last year involved a seven-year-old girl who attempted suicide.

“Most distressing in this case was the devastation the young girl felt after her parents separated,” he said.

“Her mental health deteriorated rapidly, and life became too much for the child to comprehend.

“Unfortunately, this led the child to believe that if she took her own life then she would re-spawn like a video game and everything between her parents would be good again.

“As we all know, life is not like a video game.”

The Lions club received 750 requests for help in 2018, and Mr Couper said in the six months to June 30, it had received 31 requests for support relating to mental health, 97 relating to alcohol or drugs and 104 relating to cyber safety and online bullying.

He said it was ok to ask for help, with support available via Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, Lifeline on 13 11 44 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

According to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in late September, 3046 people died of intentional self-harm in 2018, up from 2610 in 2013 and 2337 in 2009.

Of those who died through suicide last year, 2320, or more than three-quarters, were male and the median age overall was 44.4 years.

The State Government has invited feedback on its draft WA Suicide Prevention Action Plan 2021-2025 until October 22 via www.mhc.wa.gov.au.

The draft plan will provide a blueprint for a government and whole-of-community approach to suicide prevention in WA, with 50 suggested actions.

“Suicide is a devastating tragedy that not only hurts those close to a person when they take their own life, but it has repercussions that are felt throughout a local community and our society more broadly,” Mental Health Minister Roger Cook said.

“We need to draw on the critical knowledge and strength of local communities and service providers as we try to prevent these tragedies.

“This draft preventative action plan draws on the expertise of communities from across WA and highlights the need to prioritise capability and resources to respond to those most vulnerable.”

Suicide Prevention Australia said the draft plan had the right building blocks but needed to address risk factors emerging from Australia’s changing economy and society.

“Suicide Prevention Australia has long called on government to stop treating suicide as a public health crisis and start making it a problem for the whole community to solve,” chief executive Nieves Murray said.

“The WA Government’s draft action plan acknowledges this and commits to a whole of government approach to targeting the right services, at the right time, to people who may be reaching crisis point.

“Another problem plaguing the suicide prevention sector is the lack of accurate, reliable data about suicide deaths.

“We can’t make robust policy decisions about what suicide prevention strategies work if we don’t have good information on why, how and where suicide deaths are occurring.

“The final version of the plan should also include plans to address the emerging risk factors that – if they’re not addressed – may lead more people to crisis point in the coming decades.

“The changing nature of housing affordability, the gig economy and relationships are all social factors that need to be creatively tackled if we’re to reduce suicide risk.”

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