Alarming suicide rise

A Latrobe Valley mental health agency fears the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the region in the wake of rising suicides rates across Australia.

Lifeline Gippsland has yet to receive local statistics on the number of reported incidents in 2012, after the ABS released its preliminary figure of 2535 deaths in Australia – up from 2380 in 2011 – late last month.

A further 62,000 Australians were also reported to have attempted to take their lives.

However, Lifeline Gippsland acting chief executive Patricia Nalder could report anecdotally that on quite a lot of shifts, crisis support volunteers had all received calls relating to suicide.

“I don’t talk to every support person, but I’ve noticed that the number of interventions is quite high,” Ms Nalder said.

“It’s not just the person at risk, but we’re certainly seeing a spike in information about younger people attempting.”

Ms Nalder said between 2002 and 2011, 96 suicide deaths were reported in the Latrobe Valley.

She said the current Australia-wide ABS figures concerned her, and could not say she “eagerly anticipated” the latest Gippsland data.

“It’s quite alarming to see suicide is still on the increase, it’s more than vehicle accidents and overall, that suicide rate is higher than it’s ever been,” Ms Nalder said.

Lifeline Gippsland offers a Suicide Prevention and Support Program, designed to support individuals who are in crisis, providing regular telephone counselling with specially trained counsellors for a period of up to eight weeks.

The service is also collaborating with Latrobe Regional Hospital to offer two-day intensive suicide awareness courses free for Lifeline Gippsland volunteers and LRH staff or at discounted cost to the public.

Ms Nalder said there was far more cooperation between mental health agencies than ever before, while admitting agencies could do with more financial support.

She said the agency was also working on risk behaviours in schools, looking for dangers such as self-harm.

“We’re dealing with a tragedy; suicide has a ripple-effect on families, friends and workmates,” Ms Nalder said.

If, reading this, you feel you would like to speak to someone, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

For young people 5-25 years, phone Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 and for men of all ages nationally, phone MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78