The high suicide rates of Generation Z — young people born between 1997 and 2012 — have become a major cause of alarm for health authorities. In 2021, suicide was the leading cause of death for Australian aged 15 to 24; minors also accounted for a large percentage of these deaths. Many forces may be driving this uptick in suicide risks and rates, and the events of the past few years have further exacerbated these concerns.
A myriad of social issues
Before we look at these we do want to acknowledge that suicide is a difficult topic and up to 85% of us have now been touched in some way. We also want to acknowledge that every statistic quoted is a life lost and the ripple of effect of suicide is significant. So please should you find this distressing contact a support or refer to our website for helplines.
The global mental health challenges faced by Gen-Z youth are complex and multifaceted, often impacted further by various factors. For instance, LGBTQA+ youth tend to experience mental health issues due to a lack of acceptance for their sexualities, experiences of stigma, prejudice, abuse and identities and the inaccessibility of gender-affirming care. In 2021 research showed that LGBTQA+ young people aged 16 – 27 years are five times more likely to have attempted suicide that their peers..
Racial discrimination and systemic bias have also contributed to poor mental health for members of Gen-Z. Not excluding the impact of this on all young people in our diverse nation, our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged between 15 – 44 years accounted for 83.7% of the deaths by suicide in 2021, with suicide being the 5th leading cause of death as opposed to 12th leading cause of death for Australia as a whole. This difference is due to multiple, complex and interrelated social, cultural and historical influences, including colonisation, the impact of the stolen generation, transgenerational grief and trauma, racism and continued socioeconomic disadvantage. We do however acknowledge that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders may never experience suicidal thoughts or behaviour, and aspects of their culture and connection to country can be a significant strength.
Cyberbullying, difficulty at school, parental abuse, and other sources of trauma are also some reasons why may Gen-Z youth consider suicide. It’s also common for them to be experiencing more than one of these issues. Furthermore, because these problems tend to compound, they worsen the youth’s mental state over time.
The impact of COVID-19
The onset of COVID-19 has significantly disrupted our lives and for many young people resulted in increasing stress and distress. Research from headspace indicate that 74% of young people have experienced poorer mental health than before the pandemic, due to the impact of lockdowns and social isolation, health anxiety, domestic violence and disrupted schooling and critical life transitions. For many, including the Gen-Z, the problems they had faced before the pandemic were even more amplified.
With this increase, psychologists and other researchers are developing interventions to help those at risk to prevent a rise in these numbers.
What is being done
A variety of mental health solutions have been developed as a response to this problem all over the world. Many are emphasising the importance of therapy and trying to reduce the stigma surrounding getting proper help. On social media, mental health awareness is now a major topic. Young people have become more open with their mental health struggles and strive to encourage each other, headspace again identifying the most common coping strategy has been talking to family and a reliance on natural supports. This attention to mental health has also made its way to educational establishments and workplaces, where the youth have been seeking more support from these institutions.
Community-based efforts, such as creating suicide prevention networks in Australian communities, are being used in various ways to reduce suicide rates. By fostering connections, raising awareness, providing information, and offering support, these whole-of-community approaches can help prevent suicides or other mental health issues. It was also recently shown that these networks did lessen suicides among members, proving the need for communities to take action regarding suicide prevention.
The youth of Gen-Z have been the most vocal about their mental health struggles compared to the generations before them. Despite this, their concerns are often dismissed or downplayed due to their young age. Understanding the causes and the contributors to the strain on their mental well-being is integral to providing practical solutions to combat high suicide rates and decrease the risks.
At Suicide Programs, it is our goal to reduce suicide in Australia and the impact it has on individuals, families, and communities. Reach out to us to learn more about suicide awareness and prevention programs.
Exclusively written for suicideprograms.com.au by Jade Barrett