Suicide among Ballarat men remains stubbornly high at almost 30 per cent more than than national average, new data released on Friday confirmed.
Figures show 59 Ballarat men died by suicide between 2014-2018. This rate was also six times higher than Ballarat women dying by suicide, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's annual Mortality over Regions and Time report.
The MORT report does not include any numbers from the COVID-19 pandemic, in which mental health is a growing concern among mental health experts.
University of Sydney psychiatry professor Ian Hickie said the university's Brain and Mind Centre had conservatively estimated a 25 per cent rise in suicide in rural and regional Australia - but this was prior to the spike in Victorian cases and subsequent lockdowns.
Professor Hickie, writing for The Conversation, said new lockdowns in Victoria were likely to generate greater levels of uncertainty on job prospects and more prolonged social disconnection.
Modelling from the Brain and Mind Centre calls for job certainty and to retain some form of the Job Keeper payments in Victoria until 2022.
When it comes to social disconnection, Professor Hickie said over-emphasis on the government's "act hard and go fast" approach to stopping the virus had limited effect on behaviour change in the short term.
What is really required are public health messages that engage people to be community-minded and active in their local settings to support and care for each other in really testing times.Professor Ian Hickie, University of Sydney
"What is really required are public health messages that engage people to be community-minded and active in their local settings to support and care for each other in really testing times," Professor Hickie said.
"The diverse faces and voices of genuine and trusted community leaders, elders, celebrities, sporting identities and young people - not simply politicians - are critical....promoting best public behaviour and providing the necessary person-to-person support we all require."
Mental health support hotlines, like Lifeline, have experienced a rise in calls amid the pandemic. Lifeline Ballarat training coordinator Belinda Collihole telling The Courier in April people were being pushed out normal routines and comfort zones.
Professor Hickie said public messaging was needed about communities, workplaces, churches and families supporting each other. But he also said mental health system reform was vital.
Suicide remained the eighth most common cause of death for Ballarat men in 2014-18, accounting for three per cent of male deaths, or 23.5 per 100,000 people.
Suicide was not in the report's 20 highest causes of death for Ballarat women, but there were 10 confirmed female lives lost by suicide in the same period.
Australia-wide, there were 15,100 suicide deaths among men and women in the period and suicide was the ninth highest killer of Australian men at a rate of 18.8 per 100,000 people. Suicide was the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44.
There were 4,097 deaths in Ballarat in this period with coronary heart disease still the leading the leading cause of death for Ballarat men and women, claiming 479 lives.
Suicide was the highest mental health cause of death for Ballarat males and females.
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is the second highest cause of death for Ballarat people but dementia is not deemed a mental illness. Rather, dementia is a brain condition, according to Dementia Australia.
In Ballarat men, dementia deaths (5.4 per cent) are also lower than chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (5.8), cerebrovascular disease (5.5) and prostate cancer (5.5).
Ballarat's prostate cancer death rate is more than 50 per cent higher than the national average while total breast cancer deaths in Ballarat are 45 per cent higher.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis support, help is available but not limited to:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
Mensline: 1300 789 978
Survivors of Suicide: 0449 913 535
Relationships Australia: 1800 050 321
headspace Ballarat (for 12-25s and parent support): 5304 4777
Kides Helpline 1800 55 1800
Soldier On: 1300 620 380
Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500
QLife: 1800 184 527 (Support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people)
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