The mental health of Australians 2

Suicidality

Page last updated: May 2009

The term suicidality covers suicidal ideation (serious thoughts about taking one's own life), suicide plans and suicide attempts. People who experience suicidal ideation and make suicide plans are at increased risk of suicide attempts, and people who experience all forms of suicidal thoughts and behaviours are at greater risk of completing suicide.

  • At some point in their lifetime, over 2.1 million Australians aged 16-85 years had serious thoughts about taking their own life; over 600,000 made a suicide plan; and over 500,000 attempted suicide (figure 13).

  • Females were more likely to be suicidal than males, with significantly higher rates of suicidal ideation in the previous 12 months (2.7% and 1.9%). Suicide plans and attempts also tended to be higher for females.

  • These findings are in contrast to the data on completed suicides, which show that males are three to four times more likely than females to die by suicide.

  • Young females were most suicidal (5.1% of females aged 16-24 years) and the prevalence of suicidality decreased significantly with age.

  • There was little variation in suicidality across the age groups for males (figure 14).

  • Almost one in ten (8.6%) people with 12-month mental disorders reported being suicidal in the previous 12 months. This is over three times the rate in the general population (8.3% compared to 2.3%).

  • People experiencing affective disorders were at greater risk of suicidality than people experiencing anxiety or substance use disorders (17.4% compared with 9.1% and 10.9%) (figure 15).

  • Service use was relatively high among people who attempted suicide in the previous 12 months (73.4%) and by people who made a suicide plan (68%).

  • Although service use was high for those who reported suicidality, one in four people who made a suicide attempt did not access services for mental health problems in the previous 12 months.
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Figure 13: Lifetime prevalence of suicidality in Australians aged 16-85 years

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 13: Lifetime prevalence of suicidality in Australians aged 16-85 years

Text version of figure 13

Lifetime prevalence of suicidality in Australians aged 16-85 years:
  • Suicidal ideation - 13.3%
  • Suicide plan - 4.0%
  • Suicide attempt - 3.3%

Figure 14: Prevalence of suicidality in the previous 12 months by sex and age

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 14: Prevalence of suicidality in the previous 12 months by sex and age

Text version of figure 14

This graph shows prevalence (%) on the vertical axis and age group along the horizontal axis, with data shown for both males and females. No figures are provided, but the graph shows that:
  • Prevalence of suicidality amongst females is highest for young females (16-24 years) and lowest for older females (75+ years). Suicidality amongst females aged 35-44 years and 45-54 years is higher than for females immediately younger and immediately older.
  • Prevalence of suicidality amongst males is less variable between age groups than it is for females. Prevalence is highest for males aged 25-34 years. Top of page

Figure 15: Suicidality among people experiencing mental disorders in the previous 12 months

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 15: Suicidality among people experiencing mental disorders in the previous 12 months

Text version of figure 15

Suicidality among people experiencing mental disorders in the previous 12 months:
  • Affective disorder - 17.4%
  • Anxiety disorder - 9.1%
  • Substance use disorder - 10.9%
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