Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

Suicide Prevention Australia: Position Paper On Alcohol, Drugs and Suicide Prevention

suicideprevention logo This document is Suicide Prevention Australia's position on the interaction between drugs, alcohol and suicide. It is acknowledged that the presence of alcohol and drugs can heighten the likelihood of suicide or suicidal feelings. 

"The recognition of AOD abuse as a mental illness remains poorly understood by the public and policy makers..."


Alcohol or other drug (AOD) abuse is a major public health problem worldwide. It is a significant contributor to the global burden of  disease including physical and mental illness and is recognised as a mental illness in its own right. AOD abuse creates additional personal and social problems such as socio-economic disadvantage, family breakdown, criminality and social exclusion. These features of AOD abuse make it a significant risk factor for suicidality.

The epidemiology of AOD abuse points to risk factors involving the individual and their environment over their lifespan including, prenatal exposure, genetic predisposition to addiction and impulsivity, childhood adversity and family discord leading to restricted self control and poor decision-making skills (Dervaux et al. 2001). The pathways to risk of AOD abuse are complex, but furthermore the effects and outcomes of AOD abuse vary between individuals and social groups.

The recognition of AOD abuse as a mental illness is contested by some medical professionals and remains poorly understood by the public and policy makers. Thus AOD abuse remains stigmatised, discriminated against compared to other mental illnesses and often involves criminal activity, to the detriment of the treatment options, recovery and equality of opportunities of those who are AOD dependent (Carter & Hall in press).

There is a well established relationship between AOD abuse and suicide, yet the causal mechanisms remain unclear (Cherpitel et al. 2004). Overall, AOD abuse is found in 25 to 55% of suicides, far outweighing the prevalence of such use in society.

Relevance To Male Health

In formulating programs and policies to address suicide, program managers and policy-makers need to consider that suicide exists within a wide variety of lfe contexts.  SPA recommends greater integration of services between Alcohol and Drug Services, and mental health facilities as this is where there is a major gap in the system.

There also needs to be focus on the broader issues at play when addressing a person's suicidal tendencies, and there is often the risk that a person will be channelled into help programs without due consideration of their life context.


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