56 suicides in Gladstone region in three years

MENTAL health experts say starting conversations about suicide could stem the tide of deaths in the Gladstone region.

Between 2009-2012, 56 of the city's residents took their own lives.

And while suicide is a complex and costly problem, one of the most effective tools available to our community is free - conversation.

Psychologist Judith Murray says it is important to find the strength to talk to someone if they are "demoralised" and losing their desire to live.

"People need to have the courage to take the risk, even if the other person says 'stop interfering'," the University of Queensland associate professor said.

"Say 'I care about you, I care about what's going on, I'm frightened that something's going to happen to you and I'm not going to play games and pretend I don't know something's going on here'."

Special APN research reveals there were 56 suicide and self-harm related deaths in the region during 2009-2012.

The shocking University of Adelaide figure comes on the back of Tuesday's Australian Bureau of Statistics Causes of Death report, which revealed suicide was the leading cause of preventable mortality for Australians aged 15 to 44 years.

The ABS said suicide deaths rose 8% over five years. Suicide costs Australia about $1.7 billion a year.

This figure, contained in a Menslink-commissioned 2013 KPMG report, factored in productivity loss relating to premature mortality, the loss of healthy life years to the country and mental health services costs.

Experts said uncertainty about government funding and a lack of support services contributed.

Suicide Prevention Australia chief Sue Murray said the problem could get worse when federal funding for the sector ended in June.

"The existing (funding) uncertainty is hindering the ability of the sector to provide support to those touched by suicide," she said.

"Vulnerable individuals are at risk of losing their support networks and access to quality services."

Central Queensland University mental health academic Dr Louise Byrne said there were not enough support services for people on the edge.

"We have twice as many people with significant mental health challenges - people who may be at risk of feeling that they want to commit suicide - but we have half as many services," the Approach in Mental Health co-ordinator said.

Health Minister Sussan Ley would not confirm continuing federal funding for suicide support programs beyond June.

"Any suicide is one too many and it is devastating for families and communities," Ms Ley said.

If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 131 114; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800

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