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Socioeconomic disadvantage and suicidal behaviour report

Suicide is a complex and multi-faceted behaviour, resulting from a wide range of genetic, psychological, psychiatric, social, economic and cultural risk factors which interact to increase vulnerability to trauma and adversity in individuals, communities and society as a whole. The socio-ecological model proposed by the World Health Organization (World Health Organization, 2014) identifies several types (or levels) of risk factors: health system (e.g. barriers to accessing care in the health system); societal (e.g. easy access to means of suicide); community (e.g. stresses of acculturation and dislocation); relationship (e.g. lack of connectedness to people); and individual (e.g. previous suicide attempt, mental illness). A public health approach to suicide prevention seeks to reduce suicide risk by addressing factors at all these levels. Recognising the limitations of providing mental health services to people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or who have engaged in suicidal behaviour (critical though these services are), a public health approach focuses on the importance of primary prevention, i.e. preventing the occurrence of suicidal thoughts or behaviours, and addresses a broad range of protective and risk factors. Socioeconomic disadvantage is a risk factor that has received insufficient attention, even in national suicide prevention strategies and action plans which incorporate a public health perspective.