More to farmer suicides than mental health

Farming community at risk of suicide

The idea that farmers who commit suicide are lonely macho types who do not easily open up about their feelings, or seek help prior to death, may not be true.This is according to Dr Samara McPhedran from Griffith’s Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention (AISRAP), who will be presenting new findings about
suicide in the farming sector at next Monday’s World Suicide Prevention Day Forum.

In conjunction with the University of Newcastle and other partners, the study Influences on farmer suicide in Queensland and New South Wales, funded by the Australian

Research Council and industry partners, aims to provide greater detail about risk and protective factors surrounding suicide by farmers.

Dr McPhedran says that based on preliminary study of Queensland Suicide Register (QSR) data, it appears that around 40 per cent of Queensland farmers who died by suicide
from 1990-2008 had some form of contact with a mental health professional before death.

“It appears that a sizable proportion of farmers are accessing mental health services prior to death by suicide, which challenges the common assumption that farmers are unlikely to
seek help,” she says. “It also begs the question of whether mental health services are delivering appropriate types of support that take into account farmers’ specific needs and

“We should consider what else is happening in farmers’ lives, which could contribute to suicide but cannot be addressed through mental health interventions. We need to look
beyond mental illness and examine life events and other stressors.”

In addition, Dr McPhedran says the figures reveal that there are rural men who took their own lives but who were not recorded as having suffered any mental illness — whether
treated or untreated.

“Our findings so far suggest that as a society, we need to situate suicide prevention in a ‘whole of life’ context, rather than just in a mental health context.”
Dr McPhedran and her team are continuing their research with a roll out over the coming months, of a series of focus groups across farming communities.

“This will enable us to get a clearer idea of community perceptions around suicide, protective factors, and barriers to suicide prevention,” she says.


  • The World Suicide Prevention Day Forum is being hosted by AISRAP (a National Centre of Excellence in Suicide Prevention) on September 10 at the Christie Conference Centre, 320 Adelaide Street, Brisbane. The theme is Suicide Prevention across the Globe: Strengthening Protective Factors and Instilling Hope.
  • A host of AISRAP suicide prevention research will be presented on the day, alongside presentations from organisations including Queensland Health, Queensland Police and the Lifeline Foundation.
  • The QLD Minister for Health, the Hon. Lawrence Springborg, will be opening the event.
  • For full information on the event please visit