Suicide is not just a mental health issue says Lifeline

Mental health issues are not the only cause of suicide, according to the CEO of Lifeline, Pete Shmigel, with situational factors such as relationship breakdown and unemployment requiring their own suicide prevention responses.

Shmigel made the announcement as he welcomed the news that the COAG Health Council has announced the development of Australia’s first National Suicide Prevention Plan. He said:

“Lifeline receives almost a million requests for help each year and, as a result, we know better than most the immense pain and heartache that suicide is causing to individuals, families and whole communities across the country,” Mr Shmigel said.

“We also know that struggles with life’s challenges, such as loneliness, relationship breakdown and unemployment – not only mental health issues – are key reasons behind suicidal behaviour and require their own responses.

“With the number of suicide deaths rising to 10-year-plus high levels, it’s clear we need new thinking and solutions based on good old-fashioned compassion. Mostly, we need a clear and defined way forward, and this is what a national plan can achieve. Federal Health Minister the Hon. Greg Hunt MP must be commended for elevating the issue of suicide in just his third month in the office.”

Earlier this month, Shmigel spoke about male suicide at the New Male National Men’s Health Conference during a panel chaired by the Stop Male Suicide project. On the eve of the conference he wrote in the Daily Telegraph:

“With suicide as the largest cause of death for middle-aged Australians (especially men), it’s probably mistake number one to talk about more of the same. An approach based on diagnosing, treating and medicating people for something that’s “wrong with them” is a solution to another problem.

“While people with mental illness are very susceptible to suicide and they really do need the right medical support and community-based help, there is another stark suicide reality to confront: Half of the people that die by suicide in this country either don’t actually have a mental illness or previous contact with the mental health ­system.

“As ABS data recently analysed for Lifeline shows, the areas of Australia where suicide is hitting us the hardest are likely to have higher unemployment, especially not enough blue-collar jobs, a high rate of relationship breakdown, and lack of support services. Regional Australia is in trouble — and not necessarily due to mental illness.”

Estimates on the proportion of suicides that are due to “situational factors” vary enormously with a recent Australian study finding that 78% of male suicides were due to situational stress, in particular linked to relations hip issues and financial issues.

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