Suicide and depression a big worry

By Olivia Hill-Douglas
May 30 2002

Wreaths are laid at Parliament House

Wreaths are laid on the steps of Parliament House yesterday in memory of the victims of suicide. White Wreath Day is dedicated to increasing awareness of suicide.
Picture: Joe Armao

Young people in Australia rank suicide and depression as the most important issues facing them and their peers, a national survey has found.

More than 2500 young people, mostly aged from 12 to 17, were asked to rank their concerns by community service organisation Mission Australia.

Suicide and depression was ranked first among the top three concerns by 53 per cent of respondents. This was followed by abuse and sexual assault and drugs, including alcohol, both listed by 39 per cent of respondents. Other worries were bullying, school-related issues, homelessness, unemployment and family issues.

More girls than boys were concerned about suicide and depression. Sixty per cent of girls rated it their top concern, compared with 42 per cent of boys.

“Particularly for young women, depression and suicide is a serious issue,” said Mission Australia’s Claire Field. “Suicide is often highlighted in the media and it is talked about at a general level in the community.”

There were differences in the concerns listed by boys and girls. Boys rated family issues as their top concern (45 per cent), followed by depression and suicide, and alcohol and drugs.

Girls rated suicide and depression as their top concern, followed by abuse and sexual assault (44 per cent), and alcohol and drugs (41 per cent).

The survey was conducted online, through a popular magazine, and in schools and TAFE colleges. It found 87 per cent of young people were most likely to turn to a friend for help with a personal problem. Parents were next on the list, followed by a family friend or relative.

The suicide rate in Australia in 2000 was 12.2 deaths per 100,000 of population.

In the 25-34 age group, there were 20.1 deaths per 100,000.

In the 15-24 group, there were 12.5 deaths per 100,000.

Mental Health Foundation of Victoria chairman Professor Graham Burrows said one in five people would suffer from a depressive illness, a major cause of suicide, during their lives. “Of them probably only one in 25 who are diagnosed with depression get to a psychiatrist,” he said. Symptoms of depression include disturbed sleep, lowered mood, feelings of hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, and headaches.

For help, call Care Ring on 136169 or Lifeline on 131 114 and 1300 651 25.