More needs to be done to prevent growing suicide rates

March 2017

Although we are slowly chipping away at the stigma surrounding mental health, through better visibility of organisations like OzHelp and beyondblue, and by actively encouraging more and more people to seek help, it seems the statistics aren’t yet reflecting these efforts.

DMP ReportIn a report issued by the Department of Mines and Petroleum in March 2017 (based on data from the Australian of Bureau of Statistics), it was found 3,027 lives were lost from suicide in 2015, placing it a firm 13th leading cause of death in Australia that year.

When the standardised rates (a form of averaging for comparison) of deaths are compared with previous years, there is a clear increase. In 2006, the standardised rate of death was 10.2 per 100,000, with suicide the 14th leading cause. In 2015, this rate jumped to 12.6.

The report also cites the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (Slade et al., 2009), where it is estimated that at some point in their lifetime, about 2.1 million adults in Australia have had serious thoughts about ending their own lives, with 500,000 having made an attempt.

In terms of the individual States – NT had the highest standardised rate at 21.0, Tasmania was second with 16.3, followed by WA at 15.0 per 100,000 – all above the national average.

These latest statistics also show suicide to be three times higher in males, than females, and the leading cause of death of people between the ages of 15-44.

So what does this mean to us as individuals and to our industry?

Firstly, the Western Australian resources industry is predominantly male, with workers mainly aged between 25 and 45 (Education and Health Standing Committee, 2015). Also, with the median cause of death from suicide being 44.5 years as well as the leading cause of death for all people between the ages of 15-44 – this puts our industry firmly in focus.

Employers therefore need to be increasingly aware of workplace health and safety, by limiting the types of hazards that could impact on an individual’s mental health. For our sector this not only covers the workplace itself, but also the impacts of shift-work, fly-in-fly-out, accommodation, recreational facilities, clubs and more.

Other key contributory factors employers need to be aware of according to the report include bullying, harassment and discrimination at work; being performance managed; work-related interpersonal conflict or relationship breakdown; business restructures, impending redundancies and job uncertainty etc.

For us as co-workers, family and friends we can also support these individuals by making ourselves aware of the key risk factors and warning signs influencing an individual’s potential to become suicidal, given an ongoing stressful situation. The risk factors may include (but are not limited to):

  • family history of mental health problems;
  • being male;
  • alcohol or drug use;
  • social of geographical location; and
  • family discord, violence or abuse.
  • With warning signs including:
  • becoming withdrawn and unable to relate to co-workers;
  • talking about feeling isolated and lonely;
  • dramatic changes in mood;
  • expressing no reason for living or sense of purpose; and
  • threatening to hurt or kill themselves.

Ultimately, we have a collective responsibility to support individuals experiencing mental health issues with the aim of preventing these individuals ever reaching the point of no return.

For more information about preventative measures and protective measures that can be taken by employers and employees, read the full report Mines Safety Bulletin No.139.

Information sources for this article: Mines Safety Bulletin No.139, released by Department of Mines and Petroleum; Australian Bureau of Statistics and National Mental Health Commission.

Who to contact in an emergency

If you, or anyone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties and needs support, make an appointment with your GP or health professional to discuss putting in place a Mental Health Plan.

Alternatively keep a copy of this useful list.

OzHelp 1300 694 357

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Lifeline 13 11 14

Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78