Heartbreak and hope
RASTimes March 2015 | Volume 13 #1
The statistics are grim: suicide is the number one cause of death of Australians aged 15–24, and it’s worse in non-urban areas. According to figures quoted by News Corp, the suicide rate of youths in country areas is almost double that of their city counterparts; but are youth suicide rates in regional and rural areas preventable?
(In 2010, according to figures published on news.com.au in August last year, 5.9 per 100,000 15–19 year-olds died by suicide in capital cities compared to 10.3 per 100,000 outside capitals. Analysing 20–24 year-olds in the same year, the suicide rate was 9.0 per 100,000 in capital cities
compared to 16.5 for young people in regional and rural areas).
For Jannelle Brandley, who works in a non-clinical role for a mental health support service in Armidale, the numbers did not resonate until her seventeen-year-old son, Jarrod, took his life in May 2014. “It wasn’t until our boy died that the statistics [became] prevalent for us. When you’re talking 200 attempts a day that are reported, they’re huge numbers, and they’re just the people we hear about.”
It’s hard to pinpoint a solid reason why suicide rates are higher in country areas. Trevor Hazell, an executive manager for the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, believes the actual incidence of mental health issues is probably no different outside cities. “But the one big difference between you having a mental health problem in a rural and remote area compared to an urban area is the services that are available to you.”
Clare Fenwick, JB Fairfax Award for Rural Journalism