Stats show increase in suicides

A CORONIAL inquest has been told 13 people committed suicide in the flood-devastated city of Ipswich in the six months to June 30, compared with six in 2010 and seven in 2000.

State Coroner Michael Barnes is examining the flood-related deaths of 22 people and the disappearance of three more in south-east Queensland between January 10 and 17.

Despite the increase in suicide deaths, Dr Diego De Leo, director of the Australian Institute of Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University, told the inquest only one could be directly linked to the floods.

"There is no evidence to support the idea that floods have caused an increase in suicide," Dr De Leo said. "The numbers are fortunately too small ... and we couldn't find a significant trend."

Ipswich's Business Enterprise Centre manager Tony Axford raised concerns in September of a hidden suicide toll in the region, citing anecdotal evidence of more than 20 possible cases.

Mr Axford said the "triple whammy" of the GFC, the flood disaster and the subsequent insurance fall-out had driven many business people over the edge.

"I believe that if someone has lost their house and their business and they're fighting (insurance companies) on two fronts, that obviously has a huge impact," Mr Axford said.

Small business advisor Deborah Ribinskas said she knew of 12 suicides in the Lockyer and Somerset areas.

In the wake of the revelations, Lockyer Valley MP Ian Rickuss used parliamentary question time to call on the Queensland Coroner to release figures on all suicide-related deaths in the region.

Mr Rickuss said an answer was expected in mid-November.

Dr De Leo said it could be argued in some cases that suicide rates increased in the long term when socio-economic impacts were realised.

He said research conducted after Brisbane's 1974 floods indicated suicide rates did not increase, but mental health problems and drug abuse became more prevalent, particularly among males

The inquest was adjourned yesterday and will reconvene on February 27.

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