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Pupil suicide rate doubles in 10 years

Australian pupils are twice as likely to kill themselves today as they were a decade ago, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Of the 22,000 Australians who committed suicide over the past 10 years, almost one in five were in their teens: more than double the proportion in the early 1980s. And the bureau notes that suicides among young people are on the increase.

It says that in 1991 the number of deaths resulting from suicide exceeded those from car accidents for the first time since 1930. In the following two years, the difference between deaths by suicide and car accidents increased.

Young men make up almost 80 per cent of suicide cases and those living in the country have consistently higher suicide rates than city males. The number of girls killing themselves, however, also rose over the decade - doubling from three to six deaths per 100,000 females.

"My teenage son Matthew committed suicide," said Ann Joyce, from Melbourne.

"There seems no apparent reason for his death. My husband and I will never get over his loss or the empty feeling we both have. The government needs to assess this problem. If millions of dollars can be spent on road accidents and Aids, why not have money spent on finding out and preventing suicides. The statistics are too high."

* The long, dreamy summer holiday between school and university is a time when significant numbers of Australia's young people lose their virginity, according to a study by Queensland University.

The survey into the sexual attitudes and practices of first-year university students found that up to half of the 16 to 19-year-olds were sexually experienced when they arrived on campus.

Leaving school for the last time seems to awaken a widespread hedonistic response among the nation's teenagers, the researchers said, likening the phenomenon to "Barrier Reef coral spawning".

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