New modelling shows suicide rates this year could exceed COVID-19 deaths by ten fold

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Experts are predicting higher rates of suicide this year as Australia begins to more acutely feel the ripple effect the pandemic is having on the economy and on a significant number of Australian lives.

Modelling from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre was released to show the severe psychological toll the virus could have on people which may result in an extra 750-1,500 suicides a year.

Former mental health commissioner Ian Hickie said, “it is shocking in terms of numbers, but it is entirely consistent with past experience.”

“It is always those who are most marginal who are most affected.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed that the modelling will be considered in national cabinet meetings so that the government can create a response plan.

“This is very important modelling,” Mr Hunt said. “We are focused on being ahead of the curve for mental health in the same way that we were ahead of the curve for physical health.”

Every year, approximately 3,000 Australians die by suicide. The numbers that are reflected in yearly statistics however, are often not true to the reality at the time because of the lengthy process involved in recording a death by suicide.

“It’s a bit like lights coming from distant starts: it’s reflecting the past not the current reality. Of course, that’s not much use in responding to suicide,” Australian leading health advocate Professor Pat McGorry said.

Calls to Lifeline have already increased by 25 per cent compared to last year, and Beyond Blue by 40 per cent. Professor McGorry said efficient suicide data is really important to push the government to focus on this issue and to inform an effective response plan.

“I think a crisis like COVID-19 means we really need to get this happening soon because there will be a surge in suicide risk in the coming months.”

Readers seeking support should please contact the Australian Lifeline service on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

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