People living in rural and remote Australia are identified as a priority population for suicide prevention.
The term ‘rural and remote Australia’ represents the land area outside Australian major cities and includes inner and outer regional areas, remote or very remote areas.
What we know about suicide amongst people in rural or remote locations
According to the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, people living in rural and remote Australia are up to twice as likely to die by suicide as people living in major cities. Rates of suicide increase with the remoteness.
Recent 2017 data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that rates of suicide increase with remoteness, rising from 10.7 per 100, 000 people (age-standardised rate) in major cities, to 16.6 per 100, 000 for those living in remote and very remote locations1.
Within rural and remote populations, men, young people, farmers, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are at increased risk of suicide. Research undertaken by the Centre of Rural and Remote Mental Health (2017), highlights that the majority of suicides among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples occured outside capital cities within the period of 2001-20102.
Suicide prevention strategies in rural and remote Australia must be relevant, accessible and inclusive with a focus on gatekeeper training and increasing help seeking behaviour. This means that the format should be accessible and that people need to be trained and shown how to access support. The complexity of factors impacting on rural suicide highlights the need for a flexible approach to strategies specific for these areas.
The causes of suicide are complex and multifaceted. It is important to acknowledge that a person in a rural or remote area may never experience suicidal behaviours or thoughts. The presence of protective factors may reduce the risk of suicide.
Protective factors against suicide have been identified for those living in rural and remote Australia include:
- community connectedness
- lower stress levels compared to metropolitan areas (particularly for women)
- reducing access to means (particularly firearms regulation)
- social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with an emphasis on greater connectedness with traditional culture, land and ways of life.
Factors influencing suicide risk for people living in rural or remote settings include:
- limited access to comprehensive support services, including fewer visits to GPs for mental health issues
- increased access to means (particularly firearms)
- being a farmer and agricultural worker
- lower help-seeking behaviours (particularly by rural men)
- economic change due to natural disasters or climate change
- increased socioeconomic disadvantage and limited access to culturally appropriate services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- intergenerational trauma, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
- discrimination and lack of specialised services for priority populations such as young people, older people and LGBTI people.
The diversity of people living in rural and remote Australia
It is important that the diversity of people and communities in rural and remote areas of Australia be acknowledged. There is no single rural or remote community; there are many communities and each area may have distinct needs. Consideration should also be given to other identity-driven needs and roles an person living in a rural or remote area may have, which may overlap with other communities including:
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). Intentional self harm key characteristics. Retrieved 10 October 2018 from http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS...
Hazell, T., Dalton, H., Caton, T., Perkins, D. (2017). Rural suicide and its prevention: A CRRMH position paper. Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, University of Newcastle, Australia.