Trigger warning: This post deals with suicide and self-harm.
“She said my friend was ‘attention seeking’; she was not, she had a clear plan and had written a note.”
“It pained me to hear people say she only did it to get attention.She didn’t do it for the attention. She didn’t do it to be cool. She did it because she was in pain.”
“The way strangers talk about people like me [includes phrases like] ‘It’s just a rebellious phase’.”
These are real stories, shared on a candid online thread addressing women’s experiences with suicidal behaviour.
Four out of five people who die from suicide are men. But don’t let that statistic fool you: Suicide is far from being a “men’s issue”.
Across Australia, teenage girls and women across plan, attempt, think about or become preoccupied with suicide (a phenomenon known as ‘suicidal ideation’) every year at higher rates than men. Frighteningly, there’s been a huge spike in the number of women who end up in hospital because of severe self-harm over the past 15 years.
But despite those confronting statistics, women are often overlooked in suicide prevention research and programs.
That’s a fact that needs to change, according to a newly-launched report.
. Suicide Prevention Australia CEO Sue Murray, who launched the Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour in Women – Issues and Prevention paper at the National Suicide Prevention Conference in Hobart today, is calling for a greater focus on the issue.
“Given the numbers of women who think about suicide, plan their suicide, attempt their suicide and die by suicide is considerable and has a large impact on public health in Australia and internationally, we must make women more visible in suicide prevention programs and research,” Mr Murray said.
As the report makes clear, young women are one particularly at-risk group. While young men’s suicides have reduced in number and rate since peaking in 1997, for example, young women’s suicides have not.
“There’s been an increase in young women dying, but it’s not part of our public dialogue,” report author Susan Beaton told ABC News.
“The numbers may not be as great as men in their middle years, and so we tend to focus on where the numbers are larger.”
Young women are also self-harming at higher rates than before — often so severely, they need hospitalisation.
“The number of women aged 15-24 years who injured themselves so severely that they require hospital treatment has increased by more than 50% since 2000,” Ms Murray said.
There’s another, more insidious, reason women’s suicidal behaviour has been overlooked in research and suicide prevention programs: A perception that women are simply ‘seeking attention’ when they attempt suicide, despite what Ms Murray calls “evidence that shows clear intent, lethality and hospitalisation”.