More Australians have taken their own lives in the past seven decades than have been killed in war, Governor-General Peter Cosgrove says, in a chilling comparison of the enormity of the problem of suicide.
The former military leader on Monday opened the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Hobart and called on all Australians to play a part in tackling the leading cause of death among people aged under 44.
“For my lifetime, in 68 years, we have seen more Australians taking their own life than all of the casualties we list on the wall at the Australian War Memorial,” Sir Peter told the conference of nearly 400 delegates.
All Australians have a role to play in suicide prevention, he said.
“It is … important that we keep our ’emotional radar’ switched on every day so that we are there for people who may be feeling vulnerable in their daily lives.”
Sir Peter cited the latest figures which show that every year, 370,000 Australians think about taking their own lives and there are 65,000 attempts.
“The sad fact is that suicide continues to claim the lives of too many Australians,” the Governor-General said.
“This is not a situation that any society can tolerate.”
There is no easy solution and no single plan of attack, he added.
“What we do know is that we have to try something different.”
Minority groups are particularly at risk of suicide.
“The difficulties and discrimination still faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people is reflected in the fact that they are 14 times more likely to try to take their lives than members of the heterosexual community,” Sir Peter said.
The conference ends on Wednesday and will hear from national and global health, research and support experts.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467