There is new hope for people in poor mental health as Australia’s suicide rate falls by almost half in ten years. see abc.net.au/lateline story below.
The good news is tempered by serious problems in dispensing opiates recently revealed in W.A. and the lingering, deadly stigma of being mentally unwell.
But isn’t it great and encouraging that the death toll is finally falling.
And please check this link for a preview of some amazing stories and useful first hand advice from those who are unwell and hear the voices of their children.
the very welcome abc item follows…
Reaching out for help as Australian suicides fall
By John Stewart for Lateline
Posted 3 hours 28 minutes ago
Updated 3 hours 15 minutes ago
During the past decade the suicide rate among young Australians has almost halved.
It is an extraordinary public health achievement, but one which has received little publicity.
Experts say a massive public education campaign and improvement in the treatment of depression are the key reasons for the success.
But with bad economic times upon us, psychologists are warning the suicide rate may begin to rise.
Doug Millen, a 20-year-old university student based in Melbourne, is studying hard and his life is back on track.
But during his final years at high school he suffered from depression and did not know who to turn to.
“I did what young people do and I jumped on the internet and Google for some kind of help,” he said.
He found a website called Reach Out, which had been set up to prevent youth suicide and help young people suffering from depression.
“When I was feeling like I wouldn’t achieve in year 12 and trying to figure out my sexuality, Reach Out was great because it was there when I needed it,” he said.
“It’s completely anonymous and I didn’t have to talk to anyone.”
The online advantage
The Reach Out website now gets 130,000 visits per month from young people.
The website’s managers say being online is a big advantage.
“For a young person who suspects things are not OK, they might not know who to turn to or be afraid to talk to someone about it because they are afraid they will be judged,” project manager Anna McKenzie said.
“So to be able to simply go online, Google something and have a look without anyone needing to know, that’s really invaluable and that’s what a lot of young people are doing at Reachout.”
The Reach Out website was set up 10 years ago when Australia had one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the western world.
But that rate has seen a massive decline in the decade since 1997.
Professor Ian Hickie from Sydney University says suicide rates have fallen internationally, but Australia has benefited from one of the best public health campaigns in recent times.
“In general, a period of strong economic growth and a period of increased awareness around mental health problems and a need to focus on suicide reduction has contributed in most developed countries throughout that time,” he said.
“Additionally in Australia there have been extra efforts in the medical world to treat depression, identify problems and respond appropriately, but also, in Australia, a tremendous community response.”
The Howard government‘s tightening of gun laws after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre also contributed to the decline in suicides, especially among young men.
“After the new gun laws were introduced, the rate of gun suicide dropped twice as fast,” Sydney University’s associate professor Philip Alpers said.
“If you reduce the availability of firearms, especially to impulsive young men, then the number of people dying by gunshot reduces.”
But suicide rates in many Aboriginal communities are still high and despite the overall drop in the suicide rate, reports of depression and anxiety are on the rise.
More than 12 million prescriptions for anti-depressants are filled in Australia each year.
“We’ve just had a national survey of mental health in Australia, rates of illness are as high as they ever were,” Professor Hickie said.
“The good thing is that rates of suicide have gone down so we haven’t yet dealt with the underlying problem, but we have got better at dealing with one of the worst outcomes.
“The greater availability of anti-depressants is also believed to have played a role in lowering the suicide rate, but prescribing the drugs to young people is controversial.”
Experts are concerned that if more jobs are lost, the suicide rate may begin to rise.
It is a trend that has already started overseas and workers at Reachout fear that stressful times may be ahead, especially for young Australians trying to find their first job.
For more information, head to the Reach Out website.