More than 2,400 Australians died in 2015, a record high number for the previous three years.
More than 11,000 Australians have attempted suicide, the highest number since at least 2005, and the majority of those have been aged over 65.
The Government is again pushing to reduce the rate of suicide, with new restrictions on the use of lithium, the psychoactive ingredient found in some antidepressants.
While the changes were announced at a press conference on Wednesday, they were not made public, with Minister for Mental Health Jill Hennessy saying she would be publishing a detailed briefing later this month.
Ms Hennessys announcement was met with consternation from the disability community, which says the Government needs to do more to protect people with mental health issues.
It is understood that the Government’s plans to reduce suicide by at least 40 per cent by 2020 have been under consideration for some time, with a focus on the impact on the most vulnerable.
The Department of Health, which manages the Government-funded Lifeline service, says the changes will only take effect in 2020. “
We also ask you to ensure that suicide prevention efforts are aligned with national suicide prevention strategies, and that the implementation of those strategies are based on evidence.”
The Department of Health, which manages the Government-funded Lifeline service, says the changes will only take effect in 2020.
It said it is committed to providing a robust suicide prevention strategy that addresses the needs of all Australians.
But it was unable to say whether the Government would implement a more stringent strategy for the people who commit suicides.
The Disability Alliance’s president, Dr Susan O’Connor, said the Government had failed to provide sufficient information to inform the public of the plans.
She said the government needed to ensure its plans were based on rigorous research, and not simply on anecdotal evidence.
Dr O’Connor said: “It is unacceptable that the government is prioritising the needs and safety of people with disabilities at the expense of people who need the support of a mental health service.”
Mental Health Commission chairperson David Grieve said the organisation has been working closely with disability organisations, including the Disability Action Alliance, to ensure the plans were evidence-based and achievable.
He said the commission was working to support the Government to ensure people with intellectual disability, such as autism, are protected from taking their own lives.
The disability community said there was an urgent need for the Government and the Government Minister to take more seriously the needs in the disability sector.
Mr Grieve noted that the majority in the general population were likely to experience mental health difficulties at some stage in their lives.
“I am concerned about how we are going to ensure these individuals with disabilities are not taken out of context, or left to die,” he said.
“This is a crisis that will affect every community in Australia.”
Disability Advocacy Australia chief executive, Michael Gervais, said it could take years before the Government understood the complex issues around suicide and that in the meantime it was “too late to do anything about the challenges”.
“We know that suicide is a major public health issue in Australia, but we don’t know what the Government has done to address it,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
“And this has to stop.”