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Caution: Some people may find parts of this content confronting or distressing.
Please carefully consider your needs when reading the following information about suicide and self-harm. If this material raises concerns for you contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or see other ways you can seek help.
The information included here places an emphasis on data, and as such, can appear to depersonalise the pain and loss behind the statistics. The AIHW acknowledges the individuals, families and communities affected by suicide each year in Australia.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that information relating to Indigenous suicide and self-harm is included.
The AIHW supports the use of the Mindframe guidelines on responsible, accurate and safe suicide and self-harm reporting. Please consider these guidelines when reporting on statistics on the monitoring of suicide and self-harm.
If at any point you feel worried about harming yourself while viewing this information—or if you think someone else may be in danger—please stop reading and seek help.
Intentional self-harm is often defined as deliberately injuring or hurting oneself, with or without the intention of dying. Intentional self-harm comes in many forms, and affects people from different backgrounds, ages and lifestyles. The reasons for self-harm are different for each person and are often complex.
The term ‘intentional self-harm’ in the National Hospital Morbidity Database (NHMD) provides information on patients admitted to hospital for self-poisoning or self-injury, with or without suicidal intent—and therefore includes both suicide attempts and non-suicidal self-harming behaviours.
Most people who self-harm do not go on to end their lives—but previous self-harm is a strong risk factor for suicide. Therefore, monitoring of intentional self-harm is key to suicide prevention.
Understanding the scale of the problem of intentional self-harm in Australia is difficult because many cases of self-harm are unreported, unless medical treatment is required.
The NHMD is the national source of hospitalisation data in Australia. Data on the patient’s diagnosis, interventions and ‘external cause’ (including intentional self-harm) are reported to the NHMD by all states and territories using the International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, Australian modification (ICD-10-AM) and the Australian Classification of Health Interventions (ACHI). The World Health Organization’s Eleventh revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11)—yet to be adopted in Australia—has the capability to classify the intent of the external cause of an injury.
In recognition of the need for better data around suicide and self-harm, the AIHW is currently working with key stakeholders, including the Mental Health Information Strategy Standing Committee and Emergency Department data custodians to develop a nationally consistent method to identify and collect data on suicide-related ED presentations.
The only nationally representative survey to collect data on self-harm is the Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. In this survey, data on self-harm are available for adolescents aged 12–17. The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing did not include questions on self-harm.
The data reported are up to 30 June 2019, as such this data precedes COVID-19.
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