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New website released as part of Australia’s first suicide and self-harm monitoring system to improve knowledge and responsiveness

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The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) together with the National Mental Health Commission (NMHC), released a website that is part of Australia’s first suicide and self-harm monitoring system to support the national goal of working towards zero suicides.

The National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System is part of the national effort to address suicide and self-harm in Australia and fits within the broader prevention efforts happening nationally. It will be regularly updated and improved as data collection from all States and Territories aligns.

“This brings together the most comprehensive collation of data to date for suicide deaths and self-harm across eight States and Territories in a single, web-based, interactive and integrated platform. With more than 3,000 people dying from suicide every year in Australia, and over 65,000 suicide attempts, the National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System will support governments, services, and communities to better respond to suicide and self-harm,” said Mathew James, Deputy CEO, AIHW.

“Preventing suicide and suicidal behaviour is a key priority in Australia. Every life lost to suicide is one too many. We can all take action to prevent suicide with some understanding of who is at risk with simple steps. This new national system and the representation of the data, will help facilitate public conversations about suicide, self-harm, and suicide ideation, potentially saving lives,” Christine Morgan, CEO of the NMHC said.

The website is only one part of the project. Data improvement and enhanced data sharing is also a key part of the system. The pandemic has highlighted the importance on timely data including the timely data on suspected deaths by suicide that are available from suicide registers. A key goal of the National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System is to establish suicide registers in all jurisdictions. Registers currently exist in Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia with plans to establish a register in New South Wales by October 2020. The AIHW is working with South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory to help establish registers in these jurisdictions.

A key component of the monitoring system is the establishment of the National Ambulance Surveillance System (NASS).

The NASS is a partnership between Turning Point, Monash University, Eastern Health (Victoria) and jurisdictional ambulance services across Australia. It is the world-first public health monitoring system that will provide timely and comprehensive data on ambulance attendances for suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and mental health. From April, the AIHW has been collating data each week on the use of mental health services and data on suspected suicides from existing suicide registers, to inform the government.

The data released on this new site shows that while there has been a significant increase in the use of mental health services and an increase in psychological distress reported, particularly among young people, there is no evidence to date that COVID-19 has been associated with a rise in the rate of suspected deaths by suicide.

The National Suicide and Self-harm Monitoring System was announced as part of the Australian Government’s Prioritising Mental Health Package in the 2019–20 Australian Government Budget (Department of Health 2019) and has been established to address suicide and self-harm in Australia.

The new monitoring system has been developed by the AIHW with the NMHC, the Commonwealth Department of Health and an Expert Advisory Group including representation from people with lived experience of suicidality, State and Territory government representatives, researchers and representatives from the suicide prevention sector including service providers.


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