Five million Australians hit by suicide during COVID-19

09 Sep 2021

By Contributor

Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB speaks at the Emmaus Community ‘Gathering Place’ during one of his visits in 2015. The centre founded by Brother Al has served the community since 1996. Photo: The Record.

One in four Australians have reportedly admitted knowing someone who died by suicide during the past 12 months of the pandemic – the equivalent of five million people – with social isolation, the economy and jobs driving concerns, particularly amongst women, according to Suicide Prevention Australia.

It comes as two-thirds of Australians (66 per cent) support the Federal Government introducing a standalone national suicide prevention act requiring all government decisions to consider and mitigate suicide risks two years in a row.

The findings are from Suicide Prevention Australia’s second State of the Nation report, which will be officially released this week on World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 (Friday, 10 September).

Suicide Prevention Australia Chief Executive Officer Nieves Murray said history showed major increases in suicide were linked to major social and economic events* and there was none more concerning facing Australia than right now.

Ms Murray said legislation was the best prevention against suicide rates increasing, particularly given the major government decisions about economic, employee and welfare to support Australia’s COVID-repair and recovery.

“There have never been more lives lost to suicide in this country,” said Ms Murray.

Suicide Prevention Australia Chief Executive Officer Nieves Murray commented on the rise of suicides in the country, in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 on Friday, 10 September. Photo: Supplied.

“Australia needs a national Suicide Prevention Act and we need to act now.

“We all have a role to play in preventing suicide. An Act will legislate a whole-of-government priority to prevent suicide and focus the attention of every agency to address the risk of suicide across our community,” she added.

“Suicide prevention isn’t limited to health portfolios. Housing is suicide prevention,

employment is suicide prevention, finance is suicide prevention, and education is suicide prevention.”

Ms Murray went on to state, that research shows that social and economic isolation are the biggest drivers of suicide rates and COVID-19 has seen Australians subject to 18 months of rolling lockdowns and disruption to their personal lives, employment, and businesses.

“We’ve seen how quickly COVID-19 cases can get out of hand and we need to have the same national policy focus and vigilance to stop suicide rates doing the same,” Ms Murray explained.

“The fact an overwhelming majority of Australians support this low-cost, low-risk, low-impact, high-outcome option should be the green light the Federal Government needs.

Emmaus Community Founder Brother Al Archer told The Record that creating more awareness, leading with compassion and faith, are the key elements when dealing with the issue of suicide.

“Globally we are facing an epidemic of suicide. It is our obligation as followers of Jesus to be light and hope for others, especially during this time of pandemic,” he said.

“It is my experience over the last 30 years that our brothers and sisters who suicide do not necessarily want to die – But they are in a space where they feel like they can no longer stay on earth, in other words, they feel hopeless. 

Br Al said that as Christians, it is our obligation as followers of Jesus to be light and hope for others, especially during this time of pandemic. He delivered this message, in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day 2021 on Friday, 10 September. Photo: Supplied.

“Although we are spiritual beings having a human experience. The aim of getting through “Earth School” is that most of us desensitise a little, only allowing what we can handle in the present moment,” Br Al added.

As followers of Jesus Christ, Brother Al added that we must understand the extreme sensitivity of the souls that have “gone home” through suicide. 

“The many losses I have witnessed through suicide have always been devastating and never get easier through the years, and it is our heart that must support and reassure the love of the Living Christ to all affected by this tragedy.” Br Al said.

“Hope is the key to our to our journey and Christ’s love is all we can give.”