There are approximately 260 deaths by suicide each year in Western Australia. Latest figures place the number of deaths from suicide Australia-wide at more than those from car accidents (ABS, 2015). Worldwide, over a million people take their lives every year. The actual number of suicides is likely to be higher again. It is estimated that there are 5-20% more suicides than those recorded, including single occupancy car accidents and ambiguous deaths.
For every death by suicide it is estimated that between five and ten people are intimately affected by the loss and many more by what is known as the ‘ripple effect’. Each year in Western Australia up to 2,600 individuals are likely to be significantly affected by the suicide of a loved one. Amongst those bereaved are often children and young people.
Risk factors for suicide can be biological, psychological, cognitive and environmental. These can include mental health conditions, a physical disability, illness, bullying, relationship problems, substance abuse and previous suicide attempts.
Those people who experience discrimination, prejudice, isolation and family rejection including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex (LGBTQI), Aboriginal people and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) people are at greater risk of poor health and wellbeing outcomes, including suicide.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are a particular priority group for suicide prevention services, whose rate of suicide is 2.6 times higher than the rate for non-Aboriginal Australians, with the majority of suicide deaths occurring before the age of 35.
Young people are also a priority group, with most recent figures reporting that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people between 5 and 17 years of age. Additionally, data shows that young people who have attempted suicide are 18 times more likely to try it again, and 40 times more likely to die by suicide in future.
Children and young people who are under 18 years of age when a parent suicides, are three times as likely as children and young people living with their parents to later take their own lives. Research suggests that family, friends and carers bereaved in this way experience an added intensity of grief and are also two to five times more likely to die by suicide themselves. Access to appropriate care, non-judgemental suicide support and interventions for those individuals and families bereaved by suicide are key suicide prevention strategies.
Children and young people grieve differently to adults and will revisit their grief as they experience developmental milestones. The CYPRESS program is the first of its kind to be delivered in Australia with the specific focus to support those children and young people needing suicide bereavement counselling. Our ultimate aim is to achieve greater health and wellbeing outcomes, and ultimately reduce the risk of suicide amongst children and young people now and into adulthood.