Young people in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia have the highest prevalence of self-harm in the country.
The Australian Youth Self-Harm Atlas has, for the first time, identified important clusters and how the triggers vary in each region and state.
He revealed that some places are more vulnerable and require a more localized approach to tackling youth suicide.
“We found that the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia had the highest estimated prevalence of youth self-harm of any state and territory, indicating that their communities are particularly vulnerable. “, said Emily Hielscher, researcher at QIMR Berghofer.
“They should be the highest priority for funding, support and research.”
Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people across the country and remains higher in remote areas.
Specifically, the study identified clusters of self-harm in areas of WA, Northern Territory and North and Central Queensland, as well as East Melbourne, Outer South East Adelaide and Sydney’s outer west.
“The prevalence of self-harm and suicidality among young people was generally higher in rural and remote areas, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities being disproportionately affected,” Dr Hielscher said.
Major risk factors include mental illness, parental unemployment, insecure housing and having Australian-born parents.
Electronic security concerns and being a victim of homophobia also increase the risk.
The importance varied between metropolitan and regional areas, with financial barriers, transport limitations and community stigma appearing to be greater challenges in regional Australia.
Young people have also felt the effects of COVID-19 and climate change, with the pandemic and natural disasters contributing to despair and uncertainty.
Dr Hielscher said the study also unexpectedly found that young people whose parents were born abroad had a reduced risk of self-harm.
“It may be that the support that exists for young people living in communities with foreign-born parents protects against self-harm,” she said.
“Detailed research with culturally diverse groups is needed to better understand the potential protective qualities of having a foreign-born parent and whether this can provide broader lessons for youth self-harm and suicide prevention.”
The findings underscored the importance of region-specific approaches, said Dr Hielscher.
“We cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach…this research shows that different regions have varying risk factors, challenges and needs.”
The main recommendations of the study are to make real-time, localized data more easily accessible and to improve young people’s mental health and online safety.
The Atlas study was funded by Suicide Prevention Australia and carried out in collaboration with colleagues from Roses in the Ocean, the University of Western Australia and the Australian National University.
The project analyzed census data and nationally representative youth data, the Young Minds Matter survey.
He conducted 14 focus groups to investigate the prevalence and critical influences of youth self-harm in different geographical areas of Australia.
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