Suicide - Are We at Breaking Point - Jacqueline King

Suicide is a major cause of death in Australia and in Queensland every year.

Australian men and women are twice as more likely to die from suicide than as a result of road accidents this year: that’s almost fifty (50) people who are committing suicide every week.

627 Queenslanders took their lives in 2014, almost three per cent higher than the national average.

Australian men aged over 85 and men aged between 45 and 54 have the highest rates of suicide for all age groups among men. Australian women aged between 40 and 54 have the highest rates for all age groups among women. And sadly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females are more than twice likely to suicide, compared with every other age group for non-indigenous people.

Within industry, construction workers are six times more likely to die by suicide than through a workplace accident, and apprentices in construction are two and a half times more likely to suicide than other young men their age.

There are unacceptably high suicide rates among emergency service workers and former Australian Defence Service personnel, particularly those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Rates among fly in fly out personnel are also reported as increasing.

A comprehensive and holistic approach to suicide prevention has been developed by the Queensland Mental Health Commission through its draft Queensland Suicide Prevention Action Plan.

However, given the high rates of suicide and attempted suicides are continuing, urgent work needs to be undertaken in a number of key areas.

The first is to ensure access to appropriate assessment, care, support and treatment for those experiencing suicidal ideation or who have attempted suicide, by improving the clinical criteria for admittance to a mental health service, with current evidence suggesting some patients presenting with thoughts of suicide are being turned away from our public hospitals and services.

Point of hospital discharge is also a critical point where there are heightened risks of suicide, highlighting the critical importance of a supportive transition back into the community, and again more work needs to be done in this area.

There are a number of innovative initiatives already implemented within Canada and the United Kingdom where people who are highly vulnerable to suicide or who have thoughts of suicide, are able to voluntarily stay in community based safe houses, within a home-like environment in the community while gaining support from qualified psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors and other carers during their time of risk. These can be extended to include people leaving a mental health facility who also require some time to transition back into the community.

A key resolution for the Left at this Conference will therefore include calling on the Labor Government to urgently prioritise a number of key initiatives as part of a final Queensland Suicide Prevention Plan:

  • The admittance of all people who present at risk of suicide or have suicide ideation for a minimum 24 hour period to enable a full assessment of the person’s circumstances and support needs
  • The development of the option of community based safe housing for people who present at risk of suicide or have suicide ideation, or who are transitioning from a mental health facility back into the community
  • Proper resourcing of our mental health services with adequate numbers of mental health professionals, facilities, beds and support services available across both the public and private systems in metropolitan, regional and rural areas throughout Queensland to provide proper care for patients at risk of suicide or attempted suicide and for those suffering from mental health issues, and
  • Ensuring families and support networks are properly involved in discharge planning, including sufficient support systems and services to support a successful transition back into the community.

Jacqueline King is a State Conference delegate for Bowman and the Left Branch Convenor

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