National Suicide and Self Harm Monitoring System

Our challenge

Improving fragmented reporting

Suicide and self-harm are major public health issues both in Australia and globally (WHO 2021). Suicide was the leading cause of death in persons aged 15–44 in Australia in 2016–18 and the third highest contributor to the fatal burden of disease for all persons in 2015, representing 5.7% of the total years of life lost (AIHW 2019, AIHW 2021). Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy and the effects on family, friends and communities are profound. Although suicide and intentional self-harm are complex issues, they can be prevented.

We need accurate, reliable and timely data for developing suicide prevention policy and interventions, as well as informing public discussion. However, data on suicide attempts have previously been sparse. The date ranges of suicide and self-harm data were reported inconsistently in terms of mortality, burden of disease and hospitalisations collections.

Our response

Establishing a national system

The AIHW has established the National Suicide and Self Harm Monitoring System in collaboration with the Department of Health and the National Mental Health Commission. The system presents interactive data visualisations and geospatial analyses across data on suicide deaths, intentional self-harm hospital admissions and the Australian Burden of Disease Study.

In addition, the AIHW has worked with Turning Point at Monash University to establish the National Ambulance Surveillance System. This records ambulance attendances to suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, non-suicidal self-harm, mental health-related incidents and alcohol and other drug intoxication and overdoses.

We worked with state and territory governments to develop the data capture and reporting capabilities on suspected suicides referred to coroners’ courts through suicide registers, as well as data-sharing arrangements.

Our results

More data through monitoring

The National Suicide and Self Harm Monitoring System has improved the quality, accessibility and timeliness of data on deaths by suicide and on self-harming and suicidal behaviours. It is a globally unique resource to allow timely data to inform suicide prevention policy.

The system has enabled more expansive monitoring by governments of suspected suicide deaths and mental health-care activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.


AIHW 2021. Deaths in Australia. Cat. no. PHE 229. Canberra: AIHW.

AIHW 2019. Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015. Cat. no. BOD 22. Canberra: AIHW.

World Health Organization 2021. Suicide: fact sheet. Viewed 24 June 2021.