AMA President, Dr Andrew Pesce, said today that better targeted support is needed for population groups that are at higher risk of suicide, including young people, those living in rural and remote locations, Indigenous Australians, and the elderly.
Dr Pesce said that recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that suicide was one of the leading external causes of death for Indigenous people in 2008, and suicide deaths comprised a higher proportion of total deaths in younger people compared with older people.
"The AMA believes that higher risk groups warrant specific measures targeted to their particular circumstances and needs," Dr Pesce said.
"These specific measures need to rest on the solid foundation of a well-resourced and responsive service system - in community and acute care settings.
"Given that the high proportion of people who complete suicide suffer from serious mental illnesses, particular attention must be paid to providing more resources for specialist psychiatric long-term community care so that cases identified by GPs can be assessed and followed up as required.
"Other priorities include specialised training and time to allow GPs to accurately identify suicidal intentions and appropriately refer patients, and supported accommodation and transitional care back into the community."
The AMA's detailed submission to the Senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry into Suicide in Australia lists measures that the AMA considers most important for early suicide intervention and prevention in at-risk groups in Australia, including:
• for teenagers and young people - removing the barriers to them accessing doctors and developing an ongoing relationship with a GP;
• raising community awareness of suicide in rural and remote locations, and developing community capacity to identify people at risk and intervene appropriately;
• for Indigenous Australians - improving access to culturally appropriate suicide prevention programs and increasing awareness among Indigenous people of mental health issues and social and emotional wellness; and
• increasing awareness among medical professionals of risks in the elderly, and age-appropriate follow-up services and interventions.