[ASC-media] Suicide in Australia - children as young as 12. official figures understated
niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Wed Sep 13 01:42:54 CEST 2006
Suicide in Australia - children as young as 12... official figures understated
Children as young as 12 are killing themselves at an increasing rate, as evidence emerges that Australia's suicide rate may be significantly higher than official figures, according to one of the country's leading suicide researchers speaking at the international child mental health conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre.
Queensland University Professor Graham Martin said while the number of people suiciding in the under-14 age group was relatively small - eight to 10 children a year - "in the past two years we have had twice that number and it is predominantly Aboriginal kids who are dying younger".
"There are quite high rates in indigenous communities. This is a problem that developed in the 1980s - it is not something traditional in indigenous society."
Recent research by the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention indicates that the official count by the Australian Bureau of Statistic could be more than 10 per cent lower than the real figure. "It looks like we are losing more kids than the official figures suggest. I think there's a problem with the counting. These are complex issues."
Despite the apparent miscounting, Professor Martin said strategies to cut suicide rates had been effective. Since the Federal Government introduced a national suicide prevention strategy in 1994, the number of suicides had dropped by 25 per cent overall, and by 40 per cent in the 15-24 age group.
"We are better able to deal with people who are suicidal. We are clearer about the danger periods - for example, in the month after being hospitalised for a mental illness, the risk is 200 times the national average."
In indigenous communities, suicide rates were lowered by helping restore cultural identity. "What makes a difference is where there is a community program that gives the community a sense of belonging and ownership of its identity and future."
Professor Martin is in Melbourne at the 17th World Congress of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions. More than 1400 delegates have gathered for the congress, which is held every four years.
For interview: Graham Martin: 0400 080 489
Other stories today:
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§ How deadly are medications for children?
§ Terrorism, disaster and child mental health
§ Serious harm to child refugees detained by Australia
§ A perplexing disorder - parents fabricating illness
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