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Youth suicide statistics a tragic call to action

Data released on Wednesday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that 39 young people aged between 15 and 24 died from intentional self-harm in Western Australia last year.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for young people in Australia, and in WA.

The figure is a decrease from 2021, when 47 young people died by suicide, and also a reduction on 2020’s figures, when 58 young people died.

Despite the reduction, the fact that young people are dying by suicide is unacceptable and preventable, says Youth Focus CEO Derry Simpson.

“It is unacceptable that suicide remains the leading cause of death for young people in Western Australia. These statistics demonstrate that although progress is being made, there is so much more to be done.

“Suicide impacts all of us. These statistics represent real people, and years of potential life lost. Each one of these deaths has left behind devastated families and communities.

“Suicide is preventable. We know from the experiences of the young people accessing our services there are clear actions needed to create meaningful change.

“There are four key areas that need to be focused on to create this change: early access to services, easy access to services, education, and a sustainable workforce.

Early access to services is essential. We need to ensure that young people reach out for support early in their mental health journey, and that support is accessible for them when and where they need it.

Education fosters mental health literacy in our young people. We need to normalise conversations about mental health within communities through youth specific engagement programs.

“The mental health system itself can be incredibly daunting and complex. Governments and service providers need to work together to make the system easier to navigate, so young people don’t fall through the cracks.

“And finally, we need to grow the youth mental health workforce and we welcome the initial steps taken by governments to achieve this.”

Of the 39 young people who died by suicide in Western Australia, nearly 70% (27) of these deaths were young men, while approximately 30% (12) were young women.

“It’s alarming to see the continued over-representation of young men in the number of deaths by suicide. What we have seen within our services is that young men are significantly less likely to reach out for support, as are marginalised groups such as First Nations peoples.”

There are many risk factors that contribute to a young person dying by suicide. The ABS report shows that in 2022, the five most common psychosocial factors for young people aged 5-24 who died by suicide are depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, problems in partner relationship, and substance use.

This aligns to what Youth Focus is seeing as primary presenting issues for young people. The intersection of these issues means that we’re seeing young people with increased complexity and risk, and a need for immediate, intensive and coordinated support from multiple agencies.

“We are also seeing an increasing demand for our mental health services. Our 2022/23 financial year data shows that there has been close to 7% growth in the number of young people accessing Youth Focus,” Ms Simpson explains. “In some of our locations, such as Albany, we have seen the highest ever numbers of young people presenting for the first time.

“We can all help to create a community where we look after each other, and actively challenge the stigma surrounding mental health and help-seeking.”

Youth Focus provides a range of mental health services across Western Australia, all tailored to the needs of young people, because early intervention is key to ensuring that young people are able to navigate mental health challenges, and ultimately to preventing death by suicide.

If you or someone you know needs urgent support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Lisa Shearon – 0432 821 877
[email protected]