996 deaths by suicide – one in 24 die by suicide

Gerry Georgatos The Stringer October 9th, 2013

Australia’s Aboriginal peoples are suiciding at the world’s highest rates. Standalone, racially Aboriginal peoples endure horrific statistics unparalleled by the rest of Australia – horrific high incarceration rates impute racialised imprisonment, horrific high homelessness rates impute racialised neglect, and the horrific high suicide rates impute not only racialised neglect but criminal neglect.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples constitute about 2.5 per cent of the total Australian population, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children about nearly 5 per cent of the total Australian population. One in four Aboriginal people live outside the metropolises, whereas for non-Aboriginal people one in fifty live outside metropolises.

There were 996 suicide deaths across Australia, reported, between 2001 to 2010, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples. It is a horrific statistic, one in 24 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders peoples die by suicide. By comparison, 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody between 1980 to 1989 launched the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, whereas here we have 996 deaths – by suicide – in a ten year period.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a median age of 21 years compared with 37 years for the rest of Australia.

1.6 per cent of all Australians die by suicide but for Aboriginal peoples this rises to more than 4.2 per cent of all deaths. More than one in 25 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die by suicide. This figure translates to the fact that most Aboriginal families are affected by suicide, as are also most Aboriginal families affected by the high incarceration rates. On any given day and night, one in 75 Aboriginal Australians is in prison, in WA, one in 14 Aboriginal adult males is in prison.

Aboriginal peoples around the world endure disproportionate high rates of suicide but Australia’s divide between its national average and its Aboriginal peoples is one of the world’s worst, with Australia’s Aboriginal youth suicide rate the world’s worst. According to the ABS, suicide is significantly more prevalent in the earlier adult years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples than it is in the rest of the population.

With adult males, the suicide rate of Aboriginal peoples is highest within the 25 to 29 years age group with 91 deaths per 100,000 as compared 22 deaths per 100,000 for their non-Aboriginal counterparts. With adult females, the suicide rate of Aboriginal peoples is highest within the 20 to 24 years age group with 22 deaths per 100,000, more than five times higher than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, 4 deaths per 100,000.

Suicide is considered Australia-wide as a public health concern, with the average number of deaths per annum at 2,320 but the Aboriginal peoples who endure suicide disproportionately have failed to attract substantive attention from Australian governments – there are no correlating funding schemes to address target-specific Aboriginal rates of suicides.

For Aboriginal peoples the ABS standardised rate of suicide is at two and half times higher for males than the rest of the population and three and half times higher for females than the rest of the population. In some jurisdictions it has reached as high as five and seven times, and with children five to eight times, and in in some remote communities spates of suicide have reached 100 times the national suicide average.

There is a relative significant suicide rate for non-Aboriginal Australians in the 80 to 85 years age group but on life span medians Aboriginal peoples do not live into that age group. In the Northern Territory, Aboriginal males live on average to only 52 years – a third-world statistic, which during the last decade many third-world countries have been able improve and move past this Northern Territory statistic.

Suicide in Australia takes three times more males than females, but disproportionately there has been a rise in Aboriginal female suicide. According to ABS data, child suicide (five to 15 year of age) is a rare event in Australia but it is an increasing common phenomena for Aboriginal children.

The Northern Territory has the highest suicide rate in Australia, 20 deaths per 100,000 but that is because one third of its population is comprised of Aboriginal peoples.

For every suicide there are hundreds of attempted suicides – with the ABS reporting collated hospital data that validate the extent of suicides moving beyond ideation. In the 2008-2009 financial year, thousands were hospitalised due to self-harm, with 62 per cent of the hospitalised being females, and 73 per cent between the ages 15 to 44 years. The hospitalisation rate for female self-harms in the 15 to 44 years age group was 6,809 per 100,000. Male self-harms in that age group were at 4,791 per 100,000). It is a crisis. In 2008-09, all up, there were 26,935 cases of hospitalised care due to self-harm, a rate of 117.9 cases per 100,000 population.

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males, 15 years to 19 years are four and half times more likely to die by suicide than are their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait females, 15 years to 19 years, are six times more likely to die by suicide than are other young females.

Australia ranks 32nd on the world’s rankings of suicide rates – at 9.7 deaths per 100,000 population. Greenland has a horrific rate at 108 per 100,000 but the next highest, South Korea, at 31.7 deaths per 100,000 population. Most nations of the world, including third-world countries fall closer, either a little higher, or less, with Australia’s overall average suicide rate. But standalone, Australia’s Aboriginal suicide rates are higher than those of every African country, third-world countries included, higher than every country on the planet with the exception of Greenland.

What is not comprehensible for Australia in reference to these reprehensible suicide rates among Aboriginal peoples, who comprise only 2.5 per cent of the total population, is that unlike many other countries with endemic harsh poverty and civil strife, Australia is the world’s 12th largest economy, per capita the second wealthiest nation on the planet, Australia has the world’s highest median wages, and the divide between suicide rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, all 2.5 per cent of them, and the rest of Australian population, 97.5 per cent, is so wide, and widening, that it is criminal, and not just neglect.

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