YOUNG Australians are killing themselves at an ever younger age and the suicide rate among teenage males has doubled over the past 20 years, according to a report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
While overall suicide rates have remained much the same since 1921, deaths among teenagers have risen alarmingly. The 15 to 24-year-old age group has been worst affected: 80 years ago, suicide accounted for only 3 per cent of male fatalities in this group; now the figure is closer to 30 per cent.
The report says that the rising trend in suicides among young males,which is echoed in other western countries, began in the 1960s and gathered momentum in the 1980s. Part of the increae stems from declining death rates from car accidents and cancer.
But teachers are alarmed at the trend. Research suggests four main factors have contributed to the rising rate of youth suicide: more mental illness among young people, break-up of relationships, breakdown of the family unit and issues of self-esteem.
Adolescent psychologist Professor Michael Carr-Gregg said that schools could do more to help troubled teenagers. Teachers should be encouraged to create a "pro-social environment" within the classroom where students can freely share thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental atmosphere.
"Building such connectedness in schools is a major protective factor," he said.