Background Youth and child suicide prevention is a national and global priority. In Australia 35% of all male deaths and 26% of all female deaths by suicide were in the 15–19 years old group. Analysis of available suicide data could inform policy and practice focused on prevention, early intervention and post intervention.
Methods Deidentified child suicide data for the period 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2014 was analysed using Leximancer version 4 and SPSS Version 22. Variables analysed included gender, age, residence, child safety system records, method of suicide, mental health issues, child abuse and precipitating event among others.
Results Between 2004–2014, 159 children commited suicide.Three quarters were 15–17 years of age, with the youngest being 9 years of age. Two thirds were male. Compared to females, males were less likely to be known to the child safety system within the last 3 years before death (p = 0.097), have known mental health of behavioural issues (p = 0.032), show previous suicidal thoughts (p = 0.014) or attempts (p = 0.001) or self-harm (p < 0.001), or have a history of child abuse (p = 0.009). Forty five percent were from very low or low socio-economic areas. Hanging was the most frequent method of suicide and was associated with precipitating arguments. Non-hanging deaths were more likely in metropolitan and outer regional areas, in families with a history of mental illness and in cases with a history of physical abuse. Evidence of planning was present in over half of the cases.
Conclusion Better understanding of characteristics of suicides is important for early detection and prevention. Indicators of planning need to be identified and documented in order to empower communities to take action that protects the children. Multi-level interventions that address the child, the family, the community and health services integration are necessary for both pre and post suicide periods.