Mobile phones a possible lifeline against youth suicide: expert
THE prolific use of mobile phones and other modern communication tools among teenagers may have contributed to falling youth suicide rates in recent years, an expert says.
Research published in 2007 revealed there had been a nearly 50% reduction in suicides by young men between 1997 and 2003 and attributed it largely to the impact of the federal government’s National Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, which ran from 1995 to 1999.
Now, a review of the strategy, other programs and published research has concluded that while the strategy was a key factor, there were other potential contributors to the decline.
The review was conducted by Professor Graham Martin, OAM, director of the University of Queensland’s Centre for Suicide Prevention Studies in Young People. He believed the rapid increase in mobile phone use by adolescents from 1995 may have played a part, increasing connectivity and reducing isolation.
“If young people are using their mobile phones, chat rooms or MSN to actually contact friends or talk issues through, you would think that might be having some kind of impact.”
Professor Martin, a member of the National Advisory Council on Youth Suicide Prevention, also said a three-fold increase in antidepressant prescribing rates from 1995 to 2005 might have influenced the downward trend in suicide rates.
Presenting to the recent Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Annual Conference, he emphasised the ongoing benefit of programs such as MindMatters, Reach Out!, Kids Helpline, Lifeline, beyondblue and Auseinet.