At the recently-convened Legislative Assembly Enquiry into Youth Suicide and Self-Harm in the ACT, Menslink CEO Martin Fisk highlighted the numbers of young men reporting a recent traumatic event, as opposed to a mental illness, as a trigger for suicidal thoughts or actions.
In fact, a recent stressful life event such as bullying, family violence, relationship breakdown or job loss was present in more than half of the cases seen by Menslink counsellors, outnumbering those with a diagnosable mental condition by more than two to one. These stats were similar to those found in research by the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention.
Menslink also highlighted the relatively high numbers of young men who were on the autism spectrum who had suicidal thoughts or actions; again a finding that corresponded with an international study which found that more than half of British adults with Asperger’s Syndrome reported suicidal thoughts.
Mr Fisk stated there is currently too much emphasis on medical treatments and interventions that:
- May increase stigma for some people who do not identify with a mental illness, reducing the likelihood of them seeking help
- Do not necessarily help those who ARE suicidal but do not have a diagnosable or in fact treatable mental illness
- Puts unsustainable stress on very limited clinical resources such as psychiatrists, psychologists, Headspace, CAMHS, the CATT teams and emergency and mental health wards in our hospital system
He called for more investment in “non-clinical and community based interventions, designed to build emotional resilience, problem solving capability and reduce social isolation – especially amongst those most at risk,” stating that both group programs and individual counselling may go a long way to alleviating pressure on emergency wards and actually reduce the stubbornly high suicide rate.