Suicide growth rate is a serious problem for Australia

By Jim Hayes

When a society experiences a dramatic rise in suicides in a short time something is seriously wrong. This is Australia. New research has found that the number of people ending their own life is rapidly on the rise and on track to grow by 40 percent in a decade.

This is what Turning Point’s newly released report, Imagine a World Without Suicide, tells us.

On average, six men and two women end their own lives in Australia every day. We are talking about 3,801 dying on a yearly basis by 2030. And this will only account those where there is no doubt that they ended their life by their own hand.

Suicide impacts on many more people than those ending their own lives. It has affected more than 10 million Australians in some way, and more than half of the adult population knows someone who has died this way. Suicide is a serious problem for us all.

There is a lot of talk about doing more to find out the causes of the mental anguish that causes people to take such a drastic step. This is certainly needed. Suicide Prevention Australia chief executive Nieves Murray said the findings are a “major wakeup call.”

As well as considering the usual metal health issues, it is essential to move past the traditional areas and deal with societal factors. This is arguably the most important. When we are talking about a near 50 percent increase in a decade, this is not just an individual problem. This is a social problem.

It is not rocket science to realise that we live in a world that is faster paced than it was a few years ago. Many must juggle the pressures of work and home. Our technology has been used in a way that it has eroded opportunities for escape. Life requires ever quicker responses. Stress builds up.

Financial stress is a big issue. Ours is a debt crisis society. The result is not only financial stress. This is a major cause of personal relationship breakdowns. This connection has been talked about for years. The problem of personal debt has not been fixed. It gets worse.

Less talked about but just as true is the loss of community. Having people around you as a support, people to confide in, to bring a sense of belonging, is increasingly missing. People are left to their own. They no longer talk to their neighbours. Family relationships are breaking down. Many no longer socialise together like they used to

Research suggest we are heading into a crisis of loneliness. A rising proportion of members of Australian society live on their own and have few social contacts.

Yet we live in a society where we are told that the road to happiness is through material possessions and that the ‘I’ stands against the collective. Extreme individualism means to be alone. The support of the collective is devalued.

To have a fulfilling life there must be purpose: a reason to want to get up very day. Lack of purpose means emptiness. Put people in a situation where this is stripped away from them and some are going to come to believe that there is no point in going on.

If the problem of suicide is going to be addressed, the traditional medical approach and the safety net of help services must be joined with an effort to tackle the social problems contributing so much to its rise. The pressures of work, financial stress and isolation must be addressed.

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