Caution: Some people may find parts of this content confronting or distressing.
Please carefully consider your needs when reading the following information about suicide and self-harm. If this material raises concerns for you contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or see other ways you can seek help.
The information included here places an emphasis on data, and as such, can appear to depersonalise the pain and loss behind the statistics. The AIHW acknowledges the individuals, families and communities affected by suicide each year in Australia.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that information relating to Indigenous suicide and self-harm is included.
The AIHW supports the use of the Mindframe guidelines on responsible, accurate and safe suicide and self-harm reporting. Please consider these guidelines when reporting on statistics on the monitoring of suicide and self-harm.
Capturing information on risk factors relating to deaths by suicide can highlight areas of a person's life experience that may need additional attention to provide the most effective suicide prevention interventions. However, it is important to note that the presence of one or more of these risk factors in an individual’s life does not necessarily mean they will have suicidal behaviours. The vast majority of people who experience these risk factors will not experience suicidal behaviours.
As part of the National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring Project the AIHW has funded the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to identify and code (using ICD-10) psychosocial risk factors for deaths referred to a coroner, including deaths by suicide.
In 2020, the ABS added codes for the capture of the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor based on how it was described as part of the coronial investigation:
Although there was a 5.4% reduction in the number of deaths by suicide from 2019 to 2020, there were 99 people who died by suicide in 2020 (3.2% of all suicides) who had the COVID-19 pandemic mentioned in either a police or pathology report, or a coronial finding. However, for people who died by suicide and had the COVID-19 pandemic mentioned as a risk factor, it did not appear as an isolated risk (they had, on average, 5 risk factors and 3 psychosocial risk factors). It is important to remember that circumstances relating to suicide are complex and multifaceted and a combination of multiple factors contribute to a person taking their own life rather than a single reason.
In 2020, of those who died by suicide with issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic as a risk factor:
When COVID-19 was mentioned as a risk factor it manifested in different ways. For some people direct impacts from the pandemic, such as job loss, lack of financial security, family and relationship pressures, and not feeling comfortable with accessing health care were noted. For others, a general concern or anxiety about the pandemic and societal changes were stated or anxiety about contracting the virus itself.
From 2017 to 2020, around two-thirds of all deaths by suicide had at least one or more psychosocial risk factor identified. The types of psychosocial risk factors associated with deaths by suicide were age dependent and differed throughout the lifespan.
Most frequently occurring psychosocial risk factors in coroner-certified suicide deaths by age and sex, Australia, 2020.
The horizontal bar graph shows the proportion of coroner-certified deaths by suicide with psychosocial risk factors identified in males in Australia in 2020. The user can choose to view the data by sex, by age groups, and by the number of deaths by suicide with psychosocial risk factors identified. The risk factor identified in the greatest proportion of coroner-certified deaths by suicide in males at all ages was a ‘personal history of self-harm’ followed by ‘disruption of family by separation and divorce'. Data for 2017, 2018 and 2019 are also available to view.
From 2017 to 2020:
There is no national standard for the collection of data on psychosocial factors—each state and territory has its own legislation and processes relating to coroner-certified deaths meaning that the type of information collected and held by the NCIS database differs slightly by jurisdiction. Also, due to the method used for the collection of data, protective factors are not included.
The ABS reviewed and coded psychosocial risk factors (defined as social processes and social structures which can have an interaction with individual thought, behaviour and/or health outcomes) associated with deaths by suicide in 2017 through a review of police, toxicology and pathology reports and coronial findings held by the NCIS. The AIHW is working with the ABS to continue this work and embed psychosocial risk factors in future national mortality data sets.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Causes of Death, Australia 2020. ABS Catalogue number 3303.0.
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