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Suicide in rural and remote Australia: mental health strategies cannot effectively operate in isolation

Farming Mental health promotion Youth suicide Rural health Suicide Mental health Australia

Remote and rural areas in Australia suffer from suicide rates significantly higher than those in metropolitan areas and the trend in suicide rates is increasing. In 2015, suicide was identified as one of the three leading causes of death outside metropolitan areas.

This disturbing trend disproportionately affects men; death rates from suicide are 25 to 40 per cent higher in rural-based men than those living in urban centres. Correspondingly, young men in regional areas between the ages of 15-24, were between 1.5 and 1.8 times more likely to commit suicide than men of the same demographic living in urban areas. Similar inter-regional comparison statistics have been reported for rural men aged between 25-44. Furthermore, two out of every three suicides in farmers over the age of 55, were male.

Indigenous suicide rates outside urban areas are high; this suggests Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander rural and remote communities are disproportionately affected by suicide. In some remote areas, Indigenous suicide rates are up to seven times the national average. Reports indicate that, in 2017, suicide was the leading cause of death nationwide among Indigenous children between the ages of five and 17.

Key points:

  • Suicide disproportionately affects remote and rural Australia.
  • The chief recommendation in the 2018 Senate inquiry’s report was for the Federal Government to develop a national rural and remote mental health strategy.
  • A national rural and remote mental health strategy could significantly improve the accessibility and effective provision of mental health services in rural and remote Australia.
  • For optimum effect, strategies must be implemented in tandem with other government policies that seek to address the underlying causes of mental health issues among specific demographics within Australia’s rural population.
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