Social factors in suicide in Australia


Every day there are about 6 suicides in Australia, and a further 180 attempts. Notwithstanding the enormous personal and family emotional costs, and the great financial costs, suicide is a significant concern for the criminal justice system.

Since 1964, suicide rates in Australia for females (except teenagers) have fallen dramatically, and for men over 30 have fallen significantly. For teenage boys the rate has tripled, for men in their early twenties it has almost tripled, and for those in their late twenties it has increased by more than two-thirds. Young men of these ages are also the prime focus of the criminal justice system.

When we combine this with Institute findings for the period 1990-95 that 43 per cent of deaths in custody or custody-related police operations were the result of suicide (again predominantly young men), and Institute homicide data for the period 1989-93 which indicate that 7 per cent of identified offenders committed suicide after a homicide event, we have a picture of despair, despondency and “aimlessness” which cries out for preventive programs. The criminal justice system can focus on part of the problem only, and collaborative work with other agencies is needed in order to have any effect on the incidence of suicide.

This paper is taken from the report of research undertaken with the assistance of a grant from the Criminology Research Council.

Criminology Research Council grant no. CRC 23/86