THE black dog has claimed more lives in the Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac region, as the district recorded the fifth highest suicide rate in Queensland.
The Health of Queenslanders 2020 report showed an average of 32 people took their own lives each year in the region from 2016-18.
The chief health officer’s report analysed the cause of death of more than 2700 residents over the three years in the health service district, which includes Mackay, Bowen, Proserpine, Clermont, Collinsville, Dysart, Moranbah, Sarina, Glenden, Middlemount and Whitsunday.
The health service had the fifth highest suicide rate in Queensland, with 18 people dying from self-inflicted injuries per 100,000 people.
The Queensland rate was 15 suicides per 100,000 people.
The North West region, which includes Mt Isa and Cloncurry, had the highest suicide rate with 24 suicides per 100,000 people.
It was followed by Wide Bay, Cairns and Hinterland, and Central Queensland.
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The number of suicides has remained steady despite population increases since the 2018 report, which found there were 31 suicides each year in Mackay from 2013-2015.
Mackay’s high suicide rate comes as the health report found residents were significantly less likely to be hospitalised for mental health and behavioural conditions compared to other Queensland health services.
The health report said last financial year 1789 people sought help at the hospital service.
Compared to its population this meant the region had the second lowest rate of mental health presentations in the state, behind the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service.
But Mental Health and Alcohol and Other Drugs Service Division operations director Cara McCormack said hospital was not always the best place for mental health treatment and recovery.
“Instead we focus on supporting people in their community and own home,” Ms McCormack said.
“Proactive community-based support helps many people avoid a hospital admission and allows them to continue with work and other social contacts.”
She said services like the Step Up Step Down 10-bed residential mental health facility were a way to help people avoid a hospital admission or to have shorter hospital stays.
“The service helps people ‘step up’ for support if their condition is deteriorating and helps others ‘step down’ to support the transition from hospital to home,” Ms McCormack said.
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She said since it opened in July 2017 the service had saved 4965 bed days for 273 people.
But she said suicide prevention required a whole-of-community response.
Ms McCormack said the health service was a partner in the Suicide Prevention Community Action Plan for Whitsunday, Isaac and Mackay.
For those struggling with mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, Ms McCormack said help was available 24 hours a day, with residents able to access support by calling 1300 MHCALL (1300 642255).
If you need help please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636, Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800