The number of calls to helplines from Victorians has recently skyrocketed, with Lifeline receiving 1000 calls per day from residents of the state for the first time ever this week, The Age has reported.
Despite this jump in calls, there hasn’t been an increase in the suicide rate in Victoria. State Coroner John Cain released new data on Thursday, August 27, which revealed that between January 1 and August 26 there were two fewer suicides in Victoria compared to the same time last year.
According to The Age, between January 1 and August 26 this year, 466 died by suicide. In this time period last year, 468 Victorians took their own lives. This data is conflicting with the assumption that the stresses of 2020 would lead to an immediate jump in the suicide rate.
Of the 466 people who died by suicide in Victoria in 2020, 350 were men with most aged between 22 and 55.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll of our collective mental health, says Lifeline chief executive John Brogden, but the stability in the suicide rate points to the fact that funding and services are helping people.
“Governments, to their enormous credit, state and federal, came to the party really quickly to joints like Lifeline because they knew that calls would go through the roof,” Brogden told The Age.
“And our calls have gone through the roof. But the hope here is that we’re getting to people, we’re getting the services to people so that they aren’t getting to the point of suicide.”
Brogden predicts that the mental health crisis will worsen in the long term due to financial instability and with the reduction of JobKeeper payments in September, he expects more calls to Lifeline.
Before COVID-19 hit Australia, Lifeline was receiving roughly 2,500 calls per day — from the whole country. The service is now receiving 3,000 calls a day, with one-third coming from Victoria.
According to The Age, the Coroners Office has agreed to release these reports on suicide trends monthly, in order to continue conversations about suicide and suicide prevention in a safe and open manner.
“There is clearly growing awareness and community concern regarding mental health and suicide – and everyone should have access to the facts,” Judge Cain said.
If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here.