Youth Focus has called for greater investment in youth mental health services amid disturbing new data that shows an increased number of young people took their own lives in Western Australia last year.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Causes of Death 2020 report, released today, shows 58 young people aged between 15 and 24 died from intentional self-harm in Western Australia last year. This is a significant rise on 2019, when 49 young people died by suicide.
Positively, the number of suicides across all age groups in Australia decreased in 2020.
Nationally, 3139 people died by suicide in Australia last year, compared to 3318 the previous year. In WA alone, 381 people took their own lives in 2020 compared to 418 in 2019.
In WA, almost 40 per cent of all deaths in young people aged between 15 and 24 were attributed to suicide last year. Traffic crashes were the second highest cause of death in the age group at almost 17 per cent.
Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said the data, which highlighted the mental distress caused by the COVID pandemic, was cause for alarm and showed greater investment in youth mental health was desperately needed.
“This ABS data shows that suicide remains the leading cause of death amongst young people aged between 15 and 24,” Mr Papakotsias said.
“The impact of these deaths is far-reaching, often inexplicable and in most cases preventable.
“This is a grave concern. Sadly, it shows that despite the community’s very best intentions to turn the tide on youth suicide, we do not appear to be winning the war.
“This is a stark and distressing realisation that warrants urgent attention from all levels of government and all stakeholders,” he said.
“While Melbourne and Sydney have borne the brunt of long-term lockdowns, Perth has been largely immune to the extent of restrictions applied on the eastern seaboard. Nevertheless, young people here have struggled. Border restrictions have made it difficult for many young people grappling with isolation and anxiety for protracted periods of time.
“This data strengthens community calls for swift, effective and accessible mental health services to help our young people.
“Funding in suicide prevention and mental health education has been ongoing, yet the high number of young people lost to suicide is still dire. More funding is crucial to ensure organisations like Youth Focus can continue to provide support to future generations.”
Youth Focus is the only specialist non-government youth mental health service in WA and works to prevent suicide and improve the mental health of young people aged 12 to 25 through free counselling and community education services.
Last financial year Youth Focus supported 4599 young people through its free, uncapped counselling and assessment services and another 7696 people through school and community education programs at 48 schools.
If you or someone you know needs urgent support please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443