Report paints sad picture of suicides, especially in regional areas

A TOTAL of 2535 people committed suicide in Australia in 2012, a 10-year peak.

And our region is not immune to the crisis, with Lifeline Central West recording a spike in calls over the past four years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently released the Causes of Death, Australia, 2012 report, which included data on deaths by self-harm.

This national figure has not been broken down, making it impossible to know how many deaths in the central west are the result of suicide, however, a Lifeline Australia spokesperson said there were twice the number of suicides in rural areas as in metropolitan areas.

He said the national suicide death rate was 11 per 100,000 deaths, but in regional areas the rate was 20 per 100,000.

However, it varies from district to district and state to state, for instance, the Northern Territory with a high Indigenous population, can see a suicide rate of up to four times the national average.

Lifeline Central West director Alex Ferguson said the number of people calling the Lifeline phone counselling service (13 11 14) had doubled in the past four years.

He said there could be two reasons for this: there are more people suffering and in crisis, or more people recognise that help is available and are getting past some of the stigma.

Mr Ferguson said the drought was a major contributing factor to the higher number of calls in rural areas. 

He said families faced money shortages and farmers were losing the animals they loved, stresses that transferred to their partners and family members.

“All you need is for the bank to say they won’t advance any more money or for a relationship breakdown, and people feel they can’t go on,” Mr Ferguson said.

He said the drought and economic woes had been plaguing regional residents for a long time and people were mentally and emotionally exhausted. 

The geographical area of Lifeline Central West stretches from Lithgow to Bourke, covering one third of rural Australia.

This gives the organisation a pretty fair idea of how regional areas are faring.

Mr Ferguson said the divide between city and country had never been greater.

“Very little assistance has come out of Canberra,” he said.

“They just don’t get it.”

The national spokesperson added that the demand for Lifeline’s services was increasing by 15 per cent each year, yet national funding remained at $9 million.

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