Schools are important for preventing suicide, but more needs to be done

Fiona Shand and Michelle Torok
Med J Aust 2022; 216 (10): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.51540
Published online: 6 June 2022

The COVID‐19 pandemic has revealed that social connection and social factors are critical for the mental health of young people

Adolescence is a critical period of emotional, social, and physical development, during which young people are vulnerable to a variety of stressors, as they have not yet fully developed effective coping mechanisms.1 It is during this period that rates of intentional self‐harm and suicidal ideation peak; in Australia, the age‐specific rate of hospital presentations linked with self‐harm is highest for those aged 15–19 years.2 During the first 15 months of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic (March 2020 – June 2021), the number of hospital presentations by New South Wales girls and women aged 10–24 years related to self‐harm and suicidal ideation increased by 31.7% per year (compared with 7.6% per year during 2015–2019), but was unchanged for males.3 On the other hand, the overall suicide rate did not increase in Australia during the pandemic, except among men under the age of 25 years.4 In a school‐based survey in four New South Wales regions, nearly one‐third of year 9 adolescents (aged 13–16 years) reported that they had experienced active suicidal thoughts during the preceding two weeks.5

  • Fiona Shand
  • Michelle Torok

  • Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW



Michelle Torok is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Investigator grant.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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