INCREASED awareness of mental health has been credited as the thing that has turned around suicide statistics in NSW.
The NSW Government has released data showing a five per cent decrease in the number of lives lost to suicide over the 12 months between November 2019 and November 2020.
There were 853 lives lost to suicide in the 12 months to November 2019 and 807 lives lost in the 12 months to November 2020, a reduction of 46 lives.
The good news comes despite a pandemic that has resulted in almost two million COVID-19 deaths globally, jobs losses, the closure of businesses and left many people isolated.
Calls to Lifeline have increased 20 per cent over the last year as crisis supporters helped people through two major tragedies, the bushfires and the pandemic.
Lifeline Australia Chairman, John Brogden, welcomed the figures.
"These are the most remarkable figures of the COVID- 19 pandemic. This is a moment to celebrate life," he said.
Lifeline Central West CEO Stephanie Robinson was equally delighted to hear of the new statistics, crediting both the government and the media with the decreases.
"I really think the media actually has to take a bit of credit for really picking up the message around mental health," she said.
"The government has really invested quite heavily in supporting organisations, such as Lifeline and others, and I think that has definitely made a difference.
"Originally, a lot of experts were forecasting huge increases in suicide and I think because of those predictions that informed government and they really went 'We need to be really proactive here', so that is really good news."
Ms Robinson said 2020 was a busy year for local Lifeline volunteers, with an unprecedented number of calls.
The new data, she believes, is reflective of the increased calls for help as people chose to reach out instead of taking their own lives.
"What I think happened was people were frightened by what was really an unprecedented, unknown trajectory of what was going to happen and I think that put a lot of fear in people to begin with and they really heeded the messages that were being spoken," she said.
"I think whether it was people reaching out themselves or people reaching in to support them, the statistics show there's been some success."
She has encouraged those struggling with their mental health to reach out for help, while other members in the community can play an important role by checking in on people.
"If people can keep up that reaching out and community reaching in, we'll change those statistics, not only for that time, but going forward," Ms Robinson said.