Suicide. ‘The terrorism of self’
Why is it that people so devalue their lives that they would choose to end it? In a land so abundant in its economic largesse why does government not extend more of a compassionate hand in the pursuit of saving those unable to save themselves?
The answer to the first question is to be found deep in the labyrinth, the complexity, of the individual’s mind. The second I suggest is because there are fewer political points to be scored.
Power trumps the welfare of the people. Five hundred million spent on terrorism will buy more votes than the same amount spent on preventing suicide.
We know, according to the latest ABS research that deaths by suicide have reached a ten-year peak. That 7 deaths by suicide occur every day in Australia. In 2012, 1,901 males (16.8 per 100,000) and 634 females (5.6 per 100,000) died by suicide. Three out of five deaths are male and if you are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, the suicide rate is 2.5 times higher for males and 3.4 times higher for females.
Almost twice as many people die of suicide as transport deaths. And for every completed suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt. That’s around 200 attempts per day. More than one new attempt in Australia every 10 minutes.
Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.
The consequences of suicide are not just that one person is dead. That a precious life has ended. It is also a tragedy of grievous proportions for the people left behind. There is no single reason to explain why some individuals are pre disposed to taking their own lives. Even identifying conditions of risk does not, in itself, always result in prevention.
One thing however, is certain. That is the outstanding work done by the many welfare institutions who work in the field.
Total deaths by suicide in 2012 = 2535
Domestic Violence or Intimate partner terrorism.
Australia reputedly has the highest rate of Domestic Violence in the developed world. The ‘’why’’ of this is as varied and uncertain as the reason for suicide? Again many factors come into play. Culture, a male sense of superiority and even religious upbringing. One thing is certain, that being that it has a horrendous effect on family and society.
Studies show that half a million Australian women had experienced physical or sexual violence or sexual assault in the past 12 months. More than a million women had experienced physical or sexual assault by their male current or ex-partner since the age of 15.
64% of women who experienced physical assault and 81.1% of women who experienced sexual assault still did not report it to police. The proportion of women aged between 18 and 34 who reported experiencing physical violence has decreased but the proportion of women who reported experiencing physical violence after 45 increased over the same period. The percentage of women who reported that their children had witnessed partner-related violence either from a current or ex-partner was lower than in1996.
The majority of violence against men is committed by other men. Of men who reported that they had experienced physical violence in the 12 months before the survey, 73.7% said that the perpetrator was a male.
The most revealing fact however is that it is now estimated that two women each week will die as a result of domestic violence. It is also estimated that 40% of police work is related to domestic violence. The cost in human life is a tragedy of momentous proportion.
Australian of the year Rosie Batty has made a genuine impact on the problem by highlighting government inaction. The Prime Minister, and Minister for Women has, while singing her praises, responded by withdrawing government financial support to agencies in the field.
At the last COAG Meeting the sates agreed to put in an extra 15million to address the problem. They made similar decisions at the previous meeting and the one before that.
Estimated Deaths from Domestic Violence 2015 = 730
Deaths by Terrorist Activity.
When using the language of terrorism, in my mind is a 9/11 or a suicide bomber – a car bomb. Not a couple of confused kids with a sword and a knife.
So without playing down the importance of vigilance, I am trying, in this piece to bring some perspective to the government’s alarmist language when talking about deaths by terrorism and deaths by other causes.
To do this I am using ABS stats on deaths by terrorist activity for the period 1978-2014 in which 113 Australians lost their lives. Yes that’s right. In 36 years 113 people have died from terrorism.
So this year 730 will die from Domestic Violence and around 2500 will take their own lives.
In February this year the Prime Minister announced a new anti-terrorism policy including a National coordinator to clamp down on religious hatred and amendments to the citizens act. In doing so he affronted Muslim leaders in the full knowledge that they were bending over backwards to confront the problem.
He set about defining terrorism as a national threat of gigantic proportion using disproportional scare language calculated to shore up his support base in the same manner as ‘’Stop the boats’’
And at the same time as declaring Australia’s economy in a crisis almost beyond repair, he managed to find $632 million to pour into counter terrorism agencies. Then on top of that an additional $500 million PA to send troops to train the Iraq army. Something I thought we had been doing for 10 years. Slow learners perhaps.
So a billion dollars was found, our privacy violated through the retention of meta data all for the cause of fighting a perception that terrorists were lurking in every shadow on every street corner.
Tony Abbott set about, in the manner in which we have become accustomed, to frighten the shit out of people. Alarmist, persistently provocative and sensational language is something he defaults to when he is in trouble.
Raids, involving hundreds of police are tipped off to the press. Sensational headlines entice a non-thinking public. Little information is provided under the guise of necessitous secrecy and we are asked to trust an untrustworthy leader without question. We have never had a more secretive government that I can remember.
While he was using this inflammatory language to seduce the population thousands of Australians seeking help for mental health problems faced growing uncertainty because federal funding for hundreds of contracts has not been guaranteed after June 30.
Seventy mental health groups, including Mental Health Australia, Headspace, and the Black Dog Institute, have written an open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Health Minister Sussan Ley. Seeking clarification of future funding.
It seems that it is one thing to, at the drop of a hat, find $500 million to train foreign soldiers in a far off land and $632million for ASIO to fight a terrorist threat that has resulted in 113 deaths in 36 years but, at the same time, cut funding for Suicide and Domestic violence that will combined, probably result in the deaths of around 3500 Australians this year this year.
The Government is guilty of portraying terrorism as a major cause of loss of life when in fact more people have lost their lives by falling of ladders. At the same time the murder of women and children is normalised.
In writing this I am not trying to trivialise the threat of terrorism. I am just trying to place it in proper context. And that context is that it ranks very low as a threat compared to other challenges like domestic violence, suicide, workplace deaths, the road toll or preventable diseases.
At the moment, our focus is on the one that doesn’t regularly kill Australians.
But then, life is about perception. Not what is but what we perceived to be.