Suspected deaths by suicide

In Australia, the coroners court in each state and territory is responsible for investigating suspected deaths by suicide. Several jurisdictions have established their respective suicide surveillance system to collect timely data and information on suicide deaths, including New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania. Real-time data from suicide registers are valuable for evidence-based response, research and policy in suicide prevention locally, and across national and international levels.

Data on suspected deaths by suicide in 2020 and 2021 have been released for Victoria and New South Wales from their respective suicide registers. The interim Queensland Suicide Register has released data for 2020. To-date the numbers of deaths in 2020 and 2021 suspected to be from suicide are similar to previous years. These are discussed further in the next section.

It is important to bear in mind that suicide is not influenced or caused by one factor—but results from a complex interaction between multiple risk factors (Leske et al. 2020).

The data from suicide registers are based on initial police reports and other information available at the time of referral to the coroner. They are not directly comparable with data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which are based on final coronial determinations. However, the differences are generally small. For example, in the case of the Victorian Suicide Register (VSR):

…analyses have shown that over time, the VSR coding team are consistently 95% accurate or better in identifying the cohort of deaths that are ultimately determined to be suicides (Coroners Court 2021).

The state and territory suicide registers also differ from each other in their processes and counting rules for identifying suspected suicide deaths. Therefore, data from one register cannot be directly compared with those from another.

For more information on suicide register data custodians, visit Data sources.

To facilitate comprehensive suicide surveillance across Australia, AIHW is working with other state and territory governments to establish a suicide register in their respective jurisdiction. Visit Data development activities to read more.