Ambulance attendances: suicidal and self-harm behaviours

The complete extent of non-fatal suicidal and self-harming behaviours in the community is unknown in Australia. This is because, in part, not all people seek medical treatment or support for suicide attempts and self-harm injuries. Further, there are also limitations to and gaps in our current data that capture information about these behaviours. For example, data on hospitalisations due to intentional self-harm under-report the true incidence of these behaviours in the community, as only those with serious physical or mental ill-health are admitted to hospital for further treatment. Additionally, it is not possible to identify those presenting to Emergency Departments with intentional self-harm and suicide ideation in national wide data assets, although some states and territories have developed methodologies to do so within their individual datasets.

Clinical data from ambulance attendances have the potential to help broaden understandings of suicidal and self-harm behaviours in Australia, and to identify opportunities for improved intervention or postvention.

The National Ambulance Surveillance System (NASS) is a world-first public health monitoring system providing timely and comprehensive data on ambulance attendances in Australia. The NASS is a partnership between Turning Point, Monash University and state or territory ambulance services across Australia. The NASS collates and codes monthly ambulance attendances data for participating states and territories for self-harm behaviours (suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, death by suicide, and intentional self-injury).