Australian Mental Health

Why this number hasn’t trumpeted from the pages of newspapers, television screens and billboards around the country is mystifying.

Here is a disturbing number sending a strong signal to Australians to sit up and take notice. This is why…

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, for 2017 alone, the total years of life lost arising from intentional self-harm amounted to 108,081 YEARS!   They calculated that for each person who died in those circumstances in 2017, their expected life on average was cut short by 34.5 years.

Let’s stop right here.  Take a moment and let the number 108,081 sink in. 

Now imagine if that annual rate continued to be the average for ten years.

It means in ONE DECADE over 1,000,000 YEARS of Australian human lifeblood will be wiped from the nation!

Alarming, right?  How has this slipped under our radar?

What’s more, the chief cause of death in this great country among people aged between 15-44 years in 2017 was the intentional taking of their own life? 

People in their prime.  People potentially in the most productive years of their life.  Gone.  And we call this the “Lucky Country”. 

Also, in 43% of approximately 80% of cases of premature death by intentional self-harm in 2017 (ABS), depression and other mood disorders were linked as contributing factors to the deaths.

These bald-faced facts beg the question, “What can be done to turn the tide”?

In classrooms, workplaces and the community at large we have to act fast.  Whatever is happening in this space we must do more, accelerating mental health awareness, increasing early intervention programs and extending the availability of mental wellbeing resources.

Around 20% of Australians experience mental ill health in any given year. 

The National Mental Health Commission reports that mental ill health is responsible for the annual loss of around 8 million working days!   That’s saying something, right? 

It speaks volumes.  The message is clear.  Regardless of business size, workplace wellbeing programs, especially early intervention strategies require prioritisation to help prevent adverse mental health consequences among our workforces.  What is the price of inaction?   For some at risk workers who’ll fail to receive support and intervention help, the price paid will be their own life.     

The lesson is by whatever actions we can take that ultimately keeps an Australian from death by intentional self-harm, it will on average, result in saving 34.5 years of life…   plus prevent a ripple effect from bleakly impacting many other associated lives.  That’s 34.5 years per person on average saved to continue contributing to family, community and country.

Rohan Watson

Australian Registered Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Mental Health Researcher


A personal message from Rohan:
We live in a fast-changing world in which taking care of our health and wellness, and each other, is more important than ever. As an experienced counselling practitioner I’m dedicated to helping people improve their relationships, outlook on life and overall wellbeing, offering therapy within an accepting, caring, safe and private environment. I believe that each person’s emotional response to life’s situations and circumstances is uniquely complex, which is why I draw on a diversity of counselling methods to tailor an approach that best meets the distinctive needs of each individual client, couple or family unit.



Australian Bureau of Statistics. Causes of Death, Australia, 2017.  Catalogue number 3303.0. 26 September 2018. Retrieved (14 October 2019) from https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2017~Main%20Features~Intentional%20self-harm,%20key%20characteristics~3

National Mental Health Commission. New research released today will help workplaces, schools and communities make informed decisions on mental health prevention spend.  Australian Government.  19 August 2019.  Retrieved (14 October 2019) from https://www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au/media-centre/news/new-research-released-today-will-help-workplaces,-schools-and-communities-make-informed-decisions-on-mental-health-prevention-spend.aspx