New figures have emerged showing a devastating increase in the number of men taking their own lives around the country in 2022 – and revealing that suicide in general in on the rise.
Between 2019, when the Suicide and Self-Harm Monitoring System was implemented, and 2022, there was an overall increase in suspected suicide deaths of 5.13% in NSW, with an increase of 23.48% for males aged 35-44.
It seems age may be a factor, with the new data showing an increase of 20.53% amongst men aged 45-54, and 32% for men in the 55-64 age group, compared to 2021. According to data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last year, men over 85 have the highest rates of suicide, three times above the national average.
The data is truly tragic, but it’s not surprising, says Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray, “given the impacts of rising cost-of-living pressures, countless environmental disasters, geopolitical tensions and the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a clear signal that urgent action is needed.”
The numbers out of Victoria reflect this distressing trend, too, with the state recording its highest number of annual suicides since suicide data collection began in 2000. “It’s clear from this data and other indicators that people are struggling,” says Murray. “It’s a wakeup call – we need more action on suicide prevention.”
What can be done to reduce suicide rates?
“There is no easy fix and major systemic reform is required to make significant progress,” says Murray. “To meaningfully reduce suicide rates in the long-term, we need whole-of-government accountability through a Suicide Prevention Act” – something the NSW Labor Opposition has committed to introduce if it wins the 2023 state election.
While campaigns like Movember and organisations like Beyond Blue work hard to shine a light on men’s mental illness, it’s clear that more needs to be done. “[Depression] is the most frequently diagnosed mental illness by a long shot and there are still a lot of men who suffer with it,” Ronald Levant, Ed.D., cofounder of the Society for the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity, previously told Men’s Health. Many celebrities have opened up about their own battles with mental illness, from Will Smith’s darkest days to The Rock opening up about his own mum’s suicide attempt.
“In the short term, we urgently need more funding for mental health and suicide prevention to go towards services for those most at risk of suicide,” says Murray. “Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and the impact spreads across families, schools, workplace, sporting clubs and community groups. It’s important to remember that there is always hope and there is help available.”
If you or anyone else you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of self-harm, please seek professional mental health care or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, which will connect you confidentially to a counsellor at a suicide crisis centre 24/7. If you believe that you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately.