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Suicide toll at 10-year-high levels

3027 suicides. More than 8 per day. 1 every 3 hours.

Lifeline is calling for a National Summit to Stop Suicide, with ABS figures released showing that deaths by suicide are at 10-year-plus high levels.

Lifeline Australia CEO Pete Shmigel said that ‘new thinking and new solutions based on old-fashioned compassion’ are needed to tackle Australia’s suicide emergency, beyond a historical focus on clinical responses.

“We do not want 3000 lives lost to be the new tragic benchmark when it comes to deaths by suicide each year in Australia,” Mr Shmigel said. “We as a sector and community are failing our most vulnerable and we must do more and do better.

“This means starting a national conversation about how we can respond differently. While we’re prescribing more medication for mental illness than ever before – including a doubling in the rate of antidepressant use since 2000 – we are not doing enough to combat social factors that lead so many to choose death over living.

“Instead, we need to focus on asking people less of ‘what’s wrong with you?’ and more of ‘what’s happening for you and how can I unconditionally support you?’. After all, there’s no magic pill for loneliness, social isolation, relationship breakdowns and other personal crises.”

With more than 55 per cent of callers to Lifeline living alone, and a recent survey showing that more than 80 per cent of respondents believe loneliness is increasing in society, Mr Shmigel highlighted the need to focus on interpersonal relationships.

“Lifeline’s more than 50 years of answering calls from people in crisis shows us that care, compassion and connection are key barriers to suicide,” Mr Shmigel said.

“More than a hundred thousand Australians survive a suicidal crisis each year and, with more than 150 suicide safety plans created everyday by Lifeline alone, we know better than most the power of human heart-ware in stopping suicide.”

In supporting a National Summit to Stop Suicide, Lifeline Australia plans to invite thought leaders and professionals from inside and outside the mental health sector to discuss innovative solutions to the country’s suicide emergency.

Mr Shmigel said that if you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed or thinking about suicide, help is available.

He urged all people in distress – or concerned about another – to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24/7) or via the national charity’s nightly online Crisis Support Chat service.

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