Suicide register fast-tracked to prevent ‘clusters’
A new suicide register will be up and running by October to help health professionals find and prevent emerging suicide clusters across the state.
The Saturday Telegraph can reveal the register has been fast-tracked and will give police, health and justice agencies access to virtual real-time data on suicides compared to the current two-year delay in suicide statistics.
It's hoped the information will help more effectively contain situations like the current cluster in north shore schools which has claimed nine young lives since January.
A register may have also assisted officials to identify youth clusters in Grafton in 2015 and a current string of deaths south of Wollongong.
"This data is crucial and we need to know where this is happening so we can target services better," Mental Health Minister Bronnie Taylor said.
"I want it as close to real-time as possible."
The data will be sourced via the NSW Coroner and will be compiled in phases, with initial data (age, gender and location of people who have died) available from October.
NSW Health and the Department of Communities and Justice will then work to develop a more detailed data set including information such as psychosocial stressors and contact with health services. Government sources said the data may be released publicly "from time to time to inform".
Professor Patrick McGorry, of youth mental health organisation Orygen, called for the suicide toll to be as public as the road toll. "In Victoria there have been 466 who have died by suicide so far this year; almost as many as the 485 we've lost to COVID-19," he said.
Sydney University's Brain and Mind Centre co-director Professor Ian Hickie said the register would be "incredibly helpful" in driving down the number of suicides in NSW - which reached 899 in 2018 according to the ABS.
"It will allow the public health response to be targeted, timely and appropriately focused," he said.
"If there's a problem on the north shore, northern beaches, Northern Rivers or south coast, we can respond to it in real time … it is similar to how we deal with tracing every serious infection, whether that be measles, rubella or other conditions."
The Sunday Telegraph's Can We Talk campaign has called for a boost to public school counsellors and mental health training for all teachers.
The Suicide Call Back service is on 1300 659 467.
Originally published as Suicide register fast-tracked to prevent 'clusters'