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National Mental Health Commission Update
29 September 2021

Today, two key data sets that shine a light on suicide in Australia have been released. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2020 Causes of Death data and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) ‘Serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members who have served since 1985: suicide monitoring 2001 to 2019’.

Both of these data sets create important opportunities to look into the past to inform government and community decisions towards a future with zero suicide.

For too many families and loved ones, this week will be tough, and we need to keep them at the forefront of our minds as we respectfully discuss and understand these data releases.


The ABS have released the Causes of Death Data for 2020, where 3,139 deaths were recorded as lives lost to suicide.  This is the lowest rate recorded since 2016, but it still equates to almost nine lives lost every day.

We are still losing over 3,000 Australians each year, which is far too many. We are all committed to reducing this number substantially, and with our collective effort and response to the priorities and actions laid out in the National Suicide Prevention Final Advice released in April - All jurisdictions of government - federal, state and territory as well as across all governments will need to lean into their collective commitment to reduce suicide in Australia.

This morning, we presented alongside Lived Experience expert Hayley Purden, Dr Jaelea Skehan and Dr Elizabeth Paton at the Life In Mind webinar discussing the data and its context in detail.  To access Life in Mind’s summary of the release, please visit the Mindframe website.

For the Commission’s response to the release, please visit our website.

AIHW Suicide Monitoring System: Serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members who have served since 1985: suicide monitoring 2001 to 2019

Today’s release from the AIHW is the fourth annual data release for serving and ex-serving Australian Defence Force members who have served since 1985 and who have lost their lives to suicide between 2001 - 2019. This is released through joint partnership between the Department of Defence, Department of Veterans Affairs and AIHW.

Today’s data helps us understand who we have lost to suicide from our Veteran family – each person is valued, remembered and, above all, deeply respected by us.

This year, the data set on serving and ex-serving personnel we have lost to suicide since 2001 is expanded in two ways. It is updated to include those who lost their life to suicide in 2019. Most significantly, for the first time, AIHW has been able to work with Defence and DVA to expand the personnel included from those who served from 2001 in previous studies, to those who served from 1985 - 15 years earlier than has been available for past datasets.

The number of Veterans we have lost since 2001 who served from 1985 onwards is 1,273. That is far too many of our loved Australians, but what we can see in the expanded data is there has been no change in the trend lines with that larger cohort of serving and ex-serving personnel. The inclusion of the increased cohort provides a more accurate picture, it emphasises the urgency of the need to improve our services and support, but this data also reassures us that the points of vulnerability we have identified to date – and to which Defence and DVA are responding – are the right ones. 

To access the full report, click here.

To access a video recording of the AIHW media briefing from this morning, where I was joined by Veteran Family Advocate, Commissioner, Gwen Cherne to discuss the context of the data with Louise Gates, Head of the Primary, Maternal, Veterans and First Responders Group from AIHW, Dr Elizabeth Paton from Mindframe and Helen Braun from Open Arms, click here.

Today is a day of remembrance and our thoughts are very much with those who have been impacted by suicide. Please remember if you or someone you know needs support, talk to someone you trust, your GP or reach out to a support service: Lifeline 13 11 14; Beyond Blue 1300 224 636; Open Arms 1800 011 046.

Warm regards,

Christine Morgan

National Suicide Prevention Adviser to the Prime Minister and CEO, National Mental Health Commission

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