Call for action as suicide doubles road toll

In Australia, double the number of people die from suicide that from road fatalities but support services receive less than half the funding. Photo Shutterstock

In Australia, double the number of people die from suicide than from road fatalities but support services receive less than half the funding. Photo Shutterstock

Chris Dobney

Our region is a hotspot for car accident fatalities and the same, just as sadly, has become true for suicide.

Lifeline Northern Rivers has joined its counterparts Australia-wide in calling for a new approach to suicide prevention following the release of ABS statistics showing that the number of deaths by suicide is more than double the road toll.

And while there has been a 25 per cent decrease in the number of motor vehicle deaths over the past 10 years, the number of suicides has increased significantly.

In 2014, 2864 people took their own lives in Australia– almost eight per day and an increase of almost 13.5 per cent from 2013.

Lifeline Northern Rivers counselling centre manager Niall Mulligan says while there are many reasons why people take the fateful decision, disconnection from community is a common theme.

‘Research indicates that one of the main drivers towards suicide is feelings of isolation and disconnectedness,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘In any situation where there’s been an unexpectedly high number of suicides [such as recently in the Clarence Valley] these are the issues that you would look at.

‘You look at our community and our society and just wonder are we supporting people in the ways that will allow them to remain connected and feel that suicide is not a useful option,’ Mr Mulligan said.

Funding gap

Government funding for suicide prevention is half that for road safety and one of the biggest problems for NGOs trying to tackle suicide is the lack of funding available.

Lifeline is now calling the federal government to acknowledge the growing national suicide emergency and provide adequate funding to support lifesaving services, research and initiatives taking place across the sector.

‘Government funding for suicide prevention, we would argue, is not currently at the level that is required. Undoubtedly extra funding would allow services to focus on towns, such as Grafton, that are having an unexpectedly high number of suicides, Mr Mulligan said.

He added that on top of its 24-hour phone service, Lifeline Northern Rivers currently offers face-to-face counselling and ‘works with other community groups to build a suicide-safe community.

‘[We] deliver training that equips community members to be more aware of the danger signs and to have the skills to work with people who might be at risk to keep them safe and connect them to ongoing care,’ he said.

Million-signature campaign

Lifeline has today launched an online campaign seeking a million signatures calling on the federal government to double funding for suicide prevention.

‘We believe that suicide is now at a point where it is truly an emergency situation. It’s double the road toll. If the resources are marshalled to address the road toll, our view is there should be a commensurate effort to address the suicide rate of our community,’ Mr Mulligan said.

‘As part of that we believe that more government funding and a more co-ordinated approach to suicide prevention is what’s required.

‘Our view, again, is that the community agrees with us so we’re asking them to support our petition to indicate to government that this is a broader community view.’

To sign Lifeline’s petition, visit

For crisis or suicide prevention support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit


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