THE numbers are shocking, but the pain they represent is far, far worse.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics last week released its annual cause of death report for 2019, a sobering study of the way Australians dies.
And one of the most concerning [though, tragically, not most surprising] was that deaths by suicide grew six per cent in the year to 3318, up from 3138 just 12 months earlier.
That's an average of nine Australians a day driven to take their own lives or, as Lifeline Central West CEO Stephanie Robinson put it, a town the size of Blayney wiped from existence every year.
It's a staggering, heart-breaking waste in a nation that still prides itself on being the Lucky Country.
And the counsellors at the frontline of this crisis fear next year's figures will be worse again, fuelled by the demons and devastation of a pandemic and its terrible impact on our nation's mental health.
We're now facing a crisis that demands action from all us, collectively and individually.
When Australia's road toll peaked at more than 3700 in the late 1970s, it prompted an all-of-government response.
Random breath testing became commonplace, seatbelts were made compulsory and millions was spent on advertising and education campaigns to tackle the problem.
As a nation, we decided we had to do better, for the sake of those who were needlessly losing their lives on our roads and for the loved ones left behind to carry the burden of their loss.
Australia's suicide crisis has surely reached the same threshold and surely demands the same response.
We must demand that government funding of counselling services not only matches the growth in demand in year, but outstrips it so we can start to effect real change.
We must demand that organisations like Lifeline do not have to direct resources to fundraising and instead can focus on what they do best - saving Australian lives.
But we cannot ask our governments to act alone; as individuals we also have a role to play.
It's up to all of us to reach out to friends and family who might be doing it tough and to recognise the alarm bells.
It's up to all of us to make a change. This crisis demands nothing less.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can phone Lifeline 13 11 14 or Kids Help 1800 55 1800.
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