THE number of people in regional SA dying by suicide rose in 2017, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
While the total number of deaths by suicide in SA was lower in 2017, than the previous year, the percentage of those living outside greater Adelaide rose significantly.
In 2016, 224 people died by suicide in SA, with 164 of those male and 60 female, down from 225 in 2016.
But the age-standardised rate of 11.5 people per 100,000 was down from 13.3 in 2016 for those in greater Adelaide, while those from the rest of SA increased from 13.5 per 100,000 to 18.3.
Nationally, an average 8.6 people are dying by suicide each day, with men in the 45 to 54 age range most at risk.
Chair of mental health awareness and fundraising charity Ski for Life Jane Kellock, Farrell Flat, said there needed to be more mental health support in regional areas, particularly during times of stress.
“There is a lot of talk of drought throughout Qld and NSW but there are a lot of areas in SA doing it tough too,” she said.
Ms Kellock said it was important to be aware of what support was available, but there were also opportunities to be a support person.
“We need to make sure we’re checking on people we think might be vulnerable in the community,” she said.
“There are programs and Lifeline and other access options and just talking to the local GP is a really good place to start as they can refer to other programs.”
Ms Kellock would like to see increased mental health support in the form of people “on the ground”, particularly in regional areas, and more training for local doctors.
She welcomed the growth of Suicide Prevention Networks across SA.
“They need funding to continue and we need to make mental health a priority, particularly with males and especially regional males,” she said.
During Mental Health Week, a warning has also been issued to also pay attention to physical health, with people living with mental illness in rural Australia at three times the risk of premature death than the general population.
Charles Sturt University associate professor Russell Roberts said for every person who died early by suicide, another with mental illness died of cancer or cardiovascular disease due to “diagnostic undershadowing”.
“This is a major problem that is very much under recognised,” he said.
He said sometimes the focus was on treating the mental illness, with physical illnesses unscreened and left untreated. He said there was a need for all facets of the health sector to work together and avoid this “slip through the cracks”.
The Office of the Chief Psychiatrist is working with the SA Mental Health Commission to develop a new South Australian Mental Health Plan, due in March.
SA Chief Psychiatrist John Brayley is encouraging members of the community to contribute to the development of the plan.
- Lifeline 13 11 14.