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Resources & Information

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Following is information about suicide prevention and support, including definitions, statistics, warning signs and tips on how you can help someone.

The Salvation Army also offers a comprehensive online education program designed to equip people in providing suicide prevention and bereavement support. Visit our Hope for Life website to find out more.


Suicide: The act of deliberately causing one’s own death. For suicide to be officially recognised as such, a coroner’s ruling of suicide must be made.

Bereaved by suicide: The term used to refer to those who have had significant others die through suicide (e.g. partners, family, friends, classmates and workmates). These people are also referred to as "survivors".

Bereavement: Refers to the loss of a close relationship through death, grief is an individual’s emotional response to the death, and mourning is the social expression of that grief.

Postvention: The term given to activities and programs that are intended to assist those who have been bereaved by suicide to cope with what has happened. Suicide prevention and postvention are closely related in that postvention can also prevent further deaths.

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Key Australian Statistics

(According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, suicide deaths registered in 1995-2005)

* People experiencing a mental disorder, such as major depression, or a psychotic disorder, are at increased risk of suicide. Psychological autopsy studies show consistently that up to 90% of people who suicide may have been experiencing a mental disorder at the time of their death.

* Despite recent decrease in figures, suicide remains a major external cause of death, accounting for more deaths than transport accidents between 1995-2005.

* Although death by suicide is a relatively uncommon event (occurring at a rate of about 1 per 10,000 population per year; 21,010 deaths from suicide register in 2005), the human and economic costs are substantial.

* The median age of death for suicide in 2005 was 41.4 years for males and 44.1 years for females. In comparison the median age for deaths from all causes in 2005 was 76.8 for males and 82.9 years for females.

*While suicide accounts for only a small proportion (1.6%) of death of persons of all ages, it accounts for a greater proportion of deaths from all causes in specific age groups.

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Groups at risk of suicide in Australia

  • People with a previous history of attempted suicide are at greatest risk of suicide.
  • Mental disorders such as major depression and psychotic illness are associated with a much-increased risk of suicide especially after discharge from hospital or when treatment has been reduced.
  • People with alcohol or drug abuse problems have a higher risk of dying by suicide than the general population.
  • Males die by suicide about four times more often than do females. Males comprised nearly 80% of suicide deaths in 2005.
  • Young Aboriginal males and Torres Strait Islander males are more likely to die by suicide than are other young Australians.
  • People who are incarcerated - both Indigenous and non-Indigenous - are more likely to die by suicide than are other Australians. People in any form of custody have a suicide rate three times higher than the general population.

NB. Caution should be exercised in reporting and interpreting suicide information and the reliability of statistics is affected by a number of factors including under-reporting.

For more information on reporting guidelines, comprehensive facts, recent statistics and references, go to:

Australian Bureau of Statistics:

WHO – Mental Health :

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Risk factors for suicide




  • Previous history of suicide attempts
  • Suicide of a family member, friend or public figure
  • Any recent loss, family or relationship break-up or death
  • Isolation
  • Mental disorder or physical illness
  • Chronic pain
  • Substance misuse – self or family
  • Sexual, emotional and physical abuse
  • Disruption and change in friends, surroundings, routine activities
  • Change in circumstances (retirement, redundancy, children leaving home)
  • Major disappointment (failed exams, missed job promotion)
  • Exposure to violence
  • Financial and or legal problems

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Warning signs of suicide

  • Expressions of hopelessness (e.g. “You’d be better off without me”)
  • Threats, talk of, or joking about suicide
  • Making final arrangements, giving away possessions, saying goodbye
  • Sudden mood swings, abrupt changes in personality, sadness, frequent crying
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, work, school
  • Withdrawal from family, friends, peers
  • Focus on death which may surface in art work, poems or stories
  • Inability to concentrate, make decisions, or accept alternatives
  • Excessive feelings of guilt, self-blame, failure, worthlessness, poor self-esteem
  • Fatigue, sleep disturbance
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Noticeable behaviour changes – risk taking, skipping school, running away, sexual promiscuity, impulsiveness, rebelliousness, restlessness, agitation, indifference, destructiveness, illegal activities
  • Self-criticism: “I can’t do anything right”, “I’m too fat”
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs

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How you can help someone considering suicide

(Source: Lifeline)

LISTEN - look for signs, pay attention and don’t judge. Express your love, acceptance and concern. Make it safe for the person to express their feelings by establishing trust. Encourage them to do most of the talking. Acknowledge their concerns, understand their perspective before exploring solutions together.

ASK – identify the problem by asking directly about suicide. Take all threats of self-harm seriously.

ACT – remove possible means of suicide, don’t leave them alone and make sure they are safe. Seek support in professionals, friends, family and the community. Involve others – don’t try to handle the crisis alone and make sure you take care of yourself.

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How you can help someone bereaved by suicide

  • Listen -- let them talk and try to be supportive
  • Don’t avoid them
  • Include them in your normal activities
  • Help them to find professional help and support
  • Keep yourself well-informed of suicide bereavement issues to increase your own understanding and within the community
  • Not asking why the suicide occurred or if there was anything that could be done
  • Use the name of their loved one – don’t pretend they didn’t exist
  • Realise that working through grief can take years and the hurt is never forgotten
  • Practical support – e.g. take a casserole, go with them to the coroner, help with funeral arrangements, write a card, send flowers

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Support services

For immediate crisis intervention when life may be in danger ring the police on 000 or go to your local hospital emergency department.

24-hour crisis telephone counselling services include:

Salvo Care Line: NSW, Qld (regional) and ACT – 1300 36 36 22

Salvo Crisis Line: (02) 8736 3295 (Sydney local call) or (07) 3831 9016 (Brisbane local call)

Lifeline – national 24-hour counselling and referral service: 13 11 14

Kids Helpline – national counselling service for people under 18 years of age: 1800 55 18 00

Men’s Line Australia – 24 hour counselling, information and referral service for men: 1300 78 99 78

Other sources of support:

Lifeline Information Service provides access to a variety of self-help tool-kits with information about issues such as mental illness, depression, suicide prevention, and more. These resources focus on practical steps to help promote mental health and are available online at

Emergency appointment with your local doctor

Telephone interpreter service – 13 14 50

Contact details for Salvation Army Bereaved by Suicide Services in Sydney and Townsville.

The above information has been extracted from an article that appeared in The Salvation Army Pipeline magazine, July 2007.

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