The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Causes of Death data has reported a decrease in the number of suicide deaths from 3,318 deaths in 2019 to 3,139 deaths in 2020. The national suicide rate at 12.1 per 100,000 people is the lowest since 2016.
In 2020, suicide was the 15th leading cause of death. Across genders, there were 2,384 male suicide deaths (18.6 per 100,000) and 755 female deaths (5.8 per 100,000).
The Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory saw increases in the number of suicide deaths, while all other jurisdictions had a decrease.
Suicide is complex, and there are often multiple risk factors that contribute to a person’s death. A risk factor can be lifestyle, mental health or a chronic disease. Over 90% of people who died by suicide had at least one risk factor reported, with an average of three or four factors for each person. The top risk factors were:
- Mood disorders, including depression (40.3%)
- Acute use, and intoxication of, psychoactive substances (29.3%)
- Suicide ideation (23.5%)
- Problems in spousal relationships (23.2%)
- Chronic psychoactive substance use disorders (23.1%).
A risk factor might not be a direct cause and should not be considered in isolation, but it can help to provide insights into suicide prevention. It is important to note that the presence of one or more risk factors does not indicate the presence of suicidal behaviour in any one individual.
The ABS also looked at whether issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic were mentioned in a police, pathology or coronial finding report. The data showed that 3.2% (99 people) of the suicide deaths mentioned COVID-19 issues; however, it was not reported as an isolated factor. On average, five risk factors were reported. For the 99 people who died by suicide with issues relating to the pandemic:
- 6% also had a mood disorder (including depression)
- 5% also had problems related to un/employment
- 3% also had acute substance use or intoxication
- 3% also had problems related to the social environments, including social isolation.
Reaching out for support
While the suicide rate has dropped, it’s important to remember that many families, friends and communities are impacted by suicide. There is still much work to do to continue to reduce the suicide rate in Australia.
If you or someone you know needs support, you can reach out to your GP, a health professional or call one of our helplines:
Suicide Call Back Service is open 24/7 and is a free nationwide service. You can speak to a professionally trained counsellor on the phone or visit the website to access online webchat.
SuicideLine Victoria is a free 24/7 phone and online counselling service for Victorians. Our professional counsellors can help people who are impacted by suicide and anyone experiencing mental health issues. You can call the service or visit the website to access online webchat.
MensLine has professional counsellors available 24/7 to help men in all types of relationships. The service is free. You can call to speak to a counsellor or visit the website to access online webchat.
If it is an emergency, please call 000.
Note: This release of the ABS Causes of Death data is based on 2019 and 2020 preliminary data.