Youth

Youth are considered an at-risk demographic and a range of factors are associated with an increased risk of suicide among young people. These are related to individual, family and social circumstances and include:

  • mental illness combined with harmful drug use;
  • previous suicide attempts or intentional self-harm; 
  • family history of suicide or suicidal behaviour; 
  • socioeconomic disadvantage, including low educational achievement, unemployment and imprisonment; 
  • experience of abuse in childhood; and
  • easy access to firearms.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Statistics and trends

Suicide

  • age-specific suicide rates are lowest in the 15-19 years age group for both females and males in Australia.
  • the number of suicides among males aged 15 to 19 years has fallen considerably (more than halved) over recent years. In 1997, 121 males in this age group died by suicide (18.5 per 100,000). In 2005, 67 males aged 15 to 19 died by suicide (9.5 per 100,000).
  • while the level of suicides among young females has been consistently lower than their male counterparts, the number of suicides observed for females aged 15 to 19 years in 2005 (24 suicides or 3.6 per 100,000) was substantially less than in 1997 (33 suicides or 5.3 per 100,000). Further, the number of suicides observed for these females decreased somewhat between 2004 (32 suicides or 4.8 per 100,000) and 2005 (24 suicides or 3.6 per 100,000).   
  • suicide in children under the age of 15 years is a rare event in Australia.
  • In 2005, 14% of all suicide deaths were of young people, and suicide accounted for one-fifth of all deaths of young people. 
  • The suicide rate for young people aged 15–24 years increased with remoteness, with the age-standardised rate in Remote/Very Remote areas being more than 3 times that for Major Cities in 2003−2005 (31 compared with 9 per 100,000 young people).
  • The age-standardised suicide rate was also higher among young people aged 15–24 years in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of Australia, compared with the least socioeconomically disadvantaged areas (13 per 100,000 young people compared with 9 in 2003–2005).
Sources: The National Mindframe Media Initiative and Australian Insitute of Health and Welfare.
              

Self-harm


  • the number of young people who die by suicide is relatively low compared with the number who self-harm.
  • in 2005−06, there were 7,299 hospitalisations of young people due to intentional self-harm— a rate of 197 per 100,000 young people.
  • between 1996−97 and 2005−06, the hospitalisation rate for intentional self-harm among young people increased by 43%, from 138 per 100,000 young people to 197. The percentage increase was greater among females than males (51% compared 27%), and the female rate was consistently at least twice as high as for males over this period (2.5 times in 2005–06).
  • rates of intentional self-harm hospitalisation were almost twice as high among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people compared with other young Australians in 2005–06 (332 hospitalisations per 100,000 young people aged 12–24 years compared with 188).
  • young people aged 15–24 years living in Very Remote areas were hospitalised for intentional self-harm at twice the rate of young people living in Major Cities in 2005–06 (age-standardised rates of 438 compared with 222 per 100,000 young people).
  • the age-standardised hospitalisation rate was higher for young people living in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged areas than those living in the least socioeconomically disadvantaged areas (260 compared with 203 per 100,000 young people).

Source:  Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

For more information and resources, try the following:

  • Conduct a library search using the keyword 'youth'
  • View profiles of National Suicide Prevention Strategy programs
  • Read LIFE News issue 4: youth
  • Go to the links page

Key organisations

The following are some organisations specialising in youth suicide, mental health and well-being in Australia.


headspace
headspace is Australia's National Youth Mental Health Foundation.  The organisation aims to deliver improvements in the mental health, social wellbeing and economic participation of young Australian’s aged 12-25. headspace funds centres across the country that help young people access local service providers.  These centres focus on integrated service response for young people. headspace now also offers online support via e-headspace.

Kids Help Line
Kids Help Line is a Nation-wide, free, anonymous, 24-hour telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.

KidsMatter
KidsMatter is a primary school mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention initiative that aims to:

  • improve the mental health and well-being of primary school students;
  • reduce mental health problems among students (e.g. anxiety, depression and behavioural problems); and 
  • achieve greater support and assistance for students experiencing mental health problems.

The program focuses on improving students’ protective factors at an individual, school and family level.  KidsMatter operates in primary schools in all state and territories of Australia.

Kids in Mind
Kids in Mind, Mater Health Services provides a range of services and programs attending to the emotional and psychological health of children, young people and their families. The Kids in Mind website provides online information that can assist children, youth, parents, carers, referrers, researchers, students and staff in making informed choices about mental health and wellbeing.

MindMatters
MindMatters is a resource and professional development program to support Australian secondary schools in promoting and protecting the social and emotional wellbeing of members of school communities.  The program operates nationally in secondary schools, and considers a range of mental health and wellbeing determinants, including the significance of cultural context.  The MindMatters resource suite includes:

  • a resource kit for secondary schools;
  • a national professional development calendar;
  • an individual website for each state and territory; and 
  • evaluation summary reports. 

Orygen Youth Health
ORYGEN is made up of a specialist youth mental health service, a research centre and a range of education, training, advocacy and health promotion activities. The overall goal of ORYGEN is to integrate knowledge gained from clinical practice and research activities to implement, and advocate for, high quality mental health services for young people.

Reach Out
Reach Out is a web-based service designed to inspire young people to help themselves through tough times.  Reach Out! aims to improve young people’s mental health and well being by providing support, information and referrals in a format that appeals to young people. Reach Out Pro delivers information for professionals supporting young people and Reach Out Teachers Network is specifically for teachers working with young people.