Accessibility Tools

  • Content scaling 100%
  • Font size 100%
  • Line height 100%
  • Letter spacing 100%

Suicidal behaviour

  • Share

Quick facts

Quick Facts

Suicide means not only a tragic loss of a life, but also great sadness and soul-searching by the family and friends and community of the person who has died. Over 3,300 Australians died by suicide in 2019 (AIHW, 2020). For every person who dies this way, it is estimated at least 20 more attempt suicide (ABS, 2009). 

Death by suicide is highest for men aged 45-49 or 80-84 (AIHW, 2020). Men make up around three quarters of deaths by suicide, although attempted suicide is more common in women than men (AIHW, 2020). 

  • Suicide and mental health issues

    Around 20% of Australians are affected by some form of mental health issue every year, yet many do not receive the treatment and support they need (ABS, 2008). The suicide rate among people with a mental health issue is at least seven times higher than the general population. It is one of the main causes of premature death in this group. 

    Many people who die by suicide have experienced a mental health issue. Often people who are considering suicide are dealing with a combination of mental ill-health and difficult life events. But with effective treatment, social support and time, many who have tried to end their life, or considered ending their life, can go on to live full and meaningful lives. 

  • Why do people feel suicidal?

    For people with a mental health issue, the distress caused by their experiences can be so great they may feel an overwhelming desire to end their life. People recently discharged from psychiatric care are at higher risk of suicide. Knowing someone who has recently died by suicide may also increase risk. 

    Suicide can also be related to distressing life events such as unemployment, relationship breakdown, being in debt or social isolation. Sometimes people feel like they are a burden to others and that loved ones would be better off without them. A suicide attempt may be an early sign of a mental health issue developing, so it is important to get help from a doctor. For someone with a mental health issue, the following may contribute to the risk of suicide: 

    Depressive illness

    Many people who attempt suicide have experienced major depression or bipolar disorder, and may experience very negative or self-critical thinking and periods of very low mood. 

    Related: Depression, Bipolar disorder

    Psychotic symptoms

    Some may attempt suicide because they are confused and distressed by hallucinations or delusions, or to bring ‘relief’ from untreated symptoms of psychosis. 

    Related: Psychosis

    Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

    People with BPD may harm themselves or behave in a suicidal way. Some find self-harm helps them cope temporarily with intense, negative emotions. 

    Related: Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

    Drugs and alcohol

    Harmful use of drugs (such as marijuana, heroin or amphetamines) and alcohol is closely related to suicidal behaviour.

    Related: Cannabis & psychosis

  • What is self-harm?

    Self-harm means any behaviour which involves the deliberate causing of pain or injury to oneself. Self-harm is usually a response to distress – often the distress associated with mental health issues or trauma. In the short-term, some people find that it provides temporary relief from the psychological distress they are experiencing. While people who self-harm do not necessarily mean to kill themselves, it often becomes a compulsive and dangerous activity, and requires careful professional help. 

    Related: Self-harm

    With support and time, many people who have experienced suicidal thoughts or actions come to see things differently and live full lives. Visit Better Off With you to find real stories of people who have tried or considered ending their lives, and how they found their way through.  

  • Resources

    Support for suicidal thoughts and actions (and if you are concerned about someone)

    Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

    Lifeline (24-hour crisis telephone counselling) 13 11 14

    Suicide Callback Service 1300 659 467

    Call 000 for urgent medical attention or police attendance

    Information and advice on mental health issues  

    Contact SANE counselling support on 1800 187 263 or online, available Monday to Friday 10am-8pm AEST/AEDT.  

    Related SANE resources

    Finding help if you're feeling suicidal

    How to help if someone is suicidal

  • References

    1. AIHW National Mortality Database and ABS Causes of Death, Australia 2020
    2. Australian Department of Health, The Mental Health of Australians 2: 8.1 Prevalence in the Australian population, May 2009
    3. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2008. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: summary of results, 2007. ABS cat. no. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS.
Last updated: 30 October 2023

Latest Discussions on the Forum

If you sometimes struggle to say it out loud, or tell someone in person, you can reach out for support here: SANE’s professionally moderated forums are a safe and anonymous community of support that you can access any time of day or night, and on any device.

Latest discussions on the forums

Lived Experience

For anyone living with a complex mental health issue

Connect with others
Posts are loading...


    For anyone who cares about or for someone living with a mental health issue

    Connect with others
    Posts are loading...

      Ways we can support you

      Choose from a range of support services, including counselling, peer support, online groups and events, 24/7 community forums, and online information and resources.

      Icon - Shapes representing 3 people

      Online Forums Community

      Available 24/7. SANE’s online community forums provide a safe, non-judgmental space to share your experiences, seek advice and surround yourself with support.

      Icon - shape of a person wearing headphones with a wrap around microphone

      Talk to a Mental Health Professional

      Available Monday to Friday, 10am - 8pm (AEST/AEDT). SANE’s team of trained staff and volunteers provide free support, information, and resources. Call 1800 187 263. Free Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) available on 131 450.

      Icon - Hands holding a heart

      Additional guidance and support

      Available Monday to Friday, 10am to 8pm (AEST/AEDT). Work with a dedicated support team to identify your goals and tailor a support plan that's right for you. Choose from a range of supports, incl.  multi-session counselling and peer support.

      Icon - Two chat bubble shapes

      Weekly Online Discussion Groups

      Every Thursday at 7pm (AEST/AEDT). Weekly online discussions, guided by SANE peer support workers and supported by counsellors. New topics each week.

      Icon - Calendar

      Monthly Live Educational Events

      Last Tuesday of every month, at 5:30pm (AEST/AEDT). Topic Tuesday is a live Q&A discussion. Each month a different topic is facilitated by a subject matter expert, a community manager or moderator, and supported by a peer support worker.

      Icon - Document with information symbol

      Information and Resources

      Available 24/7. Access information you can trust on complex mental health issues. SANE factsheets and guides are easy to read and can help you understand what’s happening and what strategies can be helpful.

      Icon - Hand holding hand

      Guidance for supporting someone at risk of suicide

      Available 24/7. A resource that provides information and advice about supporting someone who has attempted, or is at risk of attempting, suicide.

      Get Creative with SANE

      The arts have the power to move, to heal and to help us understand ourselves and each other. SANE Create programs provide an outlet to engage with creative activities.

      Icon - Person shape in front of white board

      Peer Guide training and mentoring

      Receive guidance and support to develop the skills to use your personal mental health experiences as a peer support worker, building confidence and readiness for employment or further education.

      Have questions? Click here to read our FAQs or email us at

      Man with a short beard leaning aginst a wall with his arms folded

      Together we can change lives

      Help us provide free essential mental health support and create brighter futures for people with complex mental health issues. Make a tax deductible donation today.


      Stay in touch

      Never miss an important update from SANE.

      Please let us know your first name.
      Please let us know your last name.
      Please let us know your email address.

      Please select at least one newsletter