Ballarat's high suicide rate can spark vital talk: Hudson

SUPPORT: Taking a moment to reflect on loved ones lost to suicide and to advocate for more support in this year's Out of Shadows walk in Ballarat. Picture: Jeremy Bannister
SUPPORT: Taking a moment to reflect on loved ones lost to suicide and to advocate for more support in this year's Out of Shadows walk in Ballarat. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

PUTTING a figure on Ballarat’s suicide rate offers some clarity to the issue and can measure prevention steps moving forward, says Leading Senior Constable Des Hudson.

Ballarat has the highest suicide rate in Victoria and the fourth highest in the nation’s biggest cities with 16.7 deaths per 100,000 people each year according to a new federal government multi-angle snapshot of major cities.

Leading Senior Constable Hudson, who is the Ballarat and District Suicide Prevention Network chairman, said suicide rates were always complex to definitively gauge due to lags in coronial findings and the fact that for some deaths, it would always be unclear.

But this figure helped to spark and lead important conversation.

“We are higher than national average in completed suicide rate, that’s why Ballarat was identified for a suicide prevention network,” Leading Senior Constable Hudson said.

“For awhile there was talk of more than 100 suicides in Ballarat each year, so this data puts clarity on it. One suicide is too many, but saying about 100 all the time risks normalising it.

“...(Suicide) is still an issue for us. It’s important to have suicide at the forefront of community discussions now, not shunned, but spoken about.”

Leading Senior Constable Hudson said raising awareness about suicide prevention was more important than trying to pinpoint which groups were most vulnerable in Ballarat. He said this was vital to help ensure anyone with poor mental health felt they could access the right help.

Ballarat residents are the most confident of those living in a major Australian city that they can find crisis support. National Cities Performance Framework shows 96 per cent of people in Ballarat feel there was someone outside their household who could help.

The Network, partnering with Lifeline Ballarat, trained 103 community members in introductory safeTALK sessions. They plan to develop this next year to train people in more vulnerable communities, like men’s sheds, universities and the indigenous and LGBTIQ people.

Leading Senior Constable Hudson said a figure on the issue, as in the framework, should prove an important tool to gauge the impact of preventative initiatives moving forward.

If you or someone you know needs support: 

  • headspace Ballarat 5304 4777
  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Mensline Australia Line 1300 789 978
  • Kids Help 1800 55 1800
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.