Girls Are Killing It.
Tables turn as girls beat boys for most suicides
By Michelle Vo and Julianna Wu
Teen suicide rates show boys ‘outperforming’ girls in any given year. But, in the last five years, girls have been catching up.
In 2014, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported 38 girls aged 15 to 19 dead because of suicide. In 2015, this number jumped to 56. While the difference may not seem like a lot, this is a 45% increase in a one-year period.
In 2014, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recorded an upward trend for young people being hospitalised for self-harm. In general, hospitalisation rates for women are two and a half times higher than men, with females aged 15 to 19 accounting for a significant proportion of this statistic.
“Suicide rates have the potential to be much higher for girls because there is a big difference between how many are attempting to kill themselves and how many are successful,” Ms Tuqiri says.
Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians but according to the Mission Australia Youth Survey Report 2015, 71% of adolescents are “not at all concerned” about suicide.
This survey does not account for the fact that suicide is not in itself an isolated concern. The issues that beat suicide for “extremely concerned” can all contribute to someone being at risk of suicide.
Daniela Gokiert, psychologist and senior youth access clinician, says: “It’s a combination of feeling like you are a burden on someone, not having enough social contact and having a very poor connection to work and study – that’s a key factor because you’re not engaged in anything.”
Furthermore, according to The Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP), half of the completed suicide by young men and young women between the age of 10 and 17 had a recent stressful life event. This compared to only 20% of them who had a diagnosable mental disorder.”
Martin Fisk, CEO of Menslink, says: “A lot of politicians in particular, their response would be ‘we need more mental health services to combat mental illness’ but I’m not necessarily sure that’s the right answer.
If you have, for example, a young man who is undergoing some pretty terrible bullying, they’re not going to relate to a mental health service are they?”
While research show correlation between mental illness and suicide, there is also a difference between how adolescent boys and girls handle their condition.
Rebekka Tuqiri, psychologist and teen suicide expert, says: “The reason why boys’ stats tend to be higher than
So the question we have to ask ourselves is, are girls starting to use methods that are more drastic and that’s why we’re seeing an increase?”
Research shows that girls are more inclined to overdose or poison themselves as a means of committing suicide. This leaves some room for medical attention to reach them in time.
In many cases, these girls are hospitalised for self-harm and attempted suicide. Boys however, tend to take their own lives very quickly by hanging or jumping. This makes it difficult for someone to intervene before it’s too late.
Ms Tuqiri, says: “When boys take a risk, it’s a physical risk whereas girls tend to take more emotional risks.
Promiscuity is a bit different to drink driving. One’s going to be more inclined to lead you to death but it doesn’t mean that promiscuity isn’t going to cause all sorts of pain as well.”
Teen suicide rates are also quite disturbing within schools, with five suicide notifications every week.
It is reported that each of these notifications has a potential ripple effect to three to five other schools.
“Suicide is contagious.
If schools don’t handle it in a certain way or if information in the media is shared about someone’s suicide, it’s more likely that someone else will suicide because of that – because they’ve seen the attention that suicide gets and because they’ve seen that someone was capable.” Ms Gokiert says.
Headspace School Support is a suicide intervention program funded by the Australian government. This program aims to increase student knowledge of suicide risk factors and warning signs.
Clem Velasco, Community Engagement Officer of Headspace Wollongong, says:“There are no studies that show the negative effects of these interventions, however, we’re still concerned that conversations about suicide will have adverse effects on already vulnerable students.”
Moreover, she says these programs are specifically designed to work with suicide as opposed to attempted suicide to try and mitigate some of the distress and tension within schools.
“We want to raise awareness as much as possible so that it doesn’t have any sort of impact on the other students or within the wider community,” Ms Velasco says.
So, while the future for teen suicide remains unknown, the amount of suicide prevention services available can stop the fall of young Australian women.
Mental illness mauls masculinity
“Get over it man, they’re just suicidal thoughts”
By Michelle Vo and Julianna Wu
Men are highly represented in Australian statistics. This devastating trend can be seen across all data, from unemployment rates to the number of men in the juvenile and adult system. But perhaps the most chilling statistic of all, is that four out of every five suicides are men.
Now, consider teenage boys who are already at a vulnerable stage in their lives. School, work, and an active social life can take a toll on even the healthiest of minds. But, according to society, a large group of young men are dealing with extraordinary problems.
For these male teens, their mental health conditions are dealt with in secret. They hide behind pretences in fear that their masculinity will be questioned. But the services are out there, so why aren’t there enough boys reaching out?
Headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, provides early intervention mental health services to young people aged 12-25. They assist in the promotion of young peoples’ wellbeing. According to their rates, an equal amount of boys and girls participate in their programs. However, the grim reality remains, not all adolescent boys are seeking the help they want and desperately need.
Daniela Gokiert, psychologist and Senior Youth Access Clinician at Headspace, says: “I think in most ways, men are still very much more at risk than females because they’re less likely to communicate with others.
It’s not as acceptable for boys or men to talk about what’s going on, to connect with those emotions and to have someone help them because the general mentality is: they can help themselves.”
Research also shows that teenage boys turn to drugs and alcohol before they turn to professional help. Anything to keep their dark thoughts buried away like odd socks at the back of the drawer.
Menslink is a non-profit organisation that provides counselling and education sessions for young men under the age of 25. They promote positive male culture and encourage young men to speak up and get the help they need.
Martin Fisk, CEO of Menslink, says:
“Young men carry a degree of shame in whatever problem they have.
They face insurmountable problems and do not have any perspective or tools to get them through this, so they start thinking suicide is a valid option that can release then from this pain.”
According to the Menslink Annual Report 2014 to 2015, there was an increase of 87% in counselling hours and an increase of 89% in the number of young men getting support through difficult times.
Even though these statistics give hope that more teens are reaching out, Menslink only dealt with 285 men as opposed to 151 in the previous year. This is still only a small percentage of all young men in Australia who have a mental illness or suicide ideations.
“There is a lack of services that really cater to young men. If you look at the mental health profession, it’s largely staffed by women, so medical practices aren’t really that male friendly,” Mr Fisk says.
While a lot has been done in the area to provide young men with gender specific services, more needs to be done to include men in emotional discussions about mental health, so they do not resort to lethal measures. More needs to be done to stop young men from thinking that their first and only option is suicide.
If you need immediate help, contact:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.