Gone too soon: a report into youth suicide in the Northern Territory

Youth suicide Indigenous health Australia Northern Territory

Young people in the Northern Territory are three and a half times more likely to take their own lives than young people nationally and 75% of all child suicides in the Northern Territory between 2007 and 2011 are by Indigenous youth.

The rate of youth suicide in the Northern Territory is unacceptable. For 2009, 11 deaths of 15 to 24 year olds have been determined to be suicide. In the period 2002-06, the suicide rate of 15 to 24 year olds was over twice that of other Australian jurisdictions. This high rate of loss of young lives demands action. The Committee is also concerned that the high suicide rate signifies underlying social problems that need to be addressed.

Suicide is an issue that affects all sectors of society. However, there are some particularly concerning trends that require special attention. Comparison of suicide data of 10 to 17 year olds in the Territory from 2001-05 and 2006-10 indicate that the rate of Aboriginal youth suicides has increased (from 18.8 to 30.1 per 100,000) while the rate for non-Aboriginal youth has decreased (from 4.1 to 2.6 per 100,000). The Committee was also informed of a disturbing increase in the rate of suicide among Aboriginal girls aged 10 to 17 years.

While each suicide has unique causes, a range of factors have been identified that increase the risk of suicide. These include mental health problems, drug and alcohol misuse, sexual and physical abuse, lack of employment, social and economic disadvantage, educational disadvantage, cultural and sexual identity issues, and problems with family and the law. With a number of the suicides in the Territory it was also evident that they resulted from impulsive behaviour; usually accompanied by alcohol or substance abuse.

To respond to the suicide in the Territory, the committee identified four areas for further action:

1. Building Strong, Healthy and Resilient Communities.

2. Identifying and Helping those at Risk.

3. Helping the bereaved and stopping the contagion.

4. Smarter Service Delivery.

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