Victorian mental health ambulance attendances revealed in world first

Posted on: Thursday, 10 September 2015

This is the Victorian version of the mental health-related ambulance attendances data release. For the national version, click here

World first research has revealed Victorian paramedics responded to more than 16,000 self harm attendances in a single calendar year.

Conducted in conjunction with ambulance services across Australia, Turning Point’s Self Harm and Mental Health-related Ambulance Attendances in Australia report has identified numerous cases involving suicide attempts, accidental overdoses, anxiety, depression and psychosis.

The report took into account ambulance data in Victoria for the 12 months of 2013, with research finding paramedics responded to 16,703 self harm attendances. That figure includes:

148 suicides
6,537 suicide attempts
7,345 suicidal ideations (suicidal thoughts)
2,314 cases of self injury and
359 cases of self injury threat

The number of self harm attendances where drugs were involved was also a concern, with alcohol present in 11 per cent of suicides, and 33 per cent of suicide attempts.
Turning Point Head of Research and Workforce Development Associate Professor Belinda Lloyd said the report presented for the first time robust evidence the extent of mental health related cases paramedics were facing.

“Around 20 per cent of Australian emergency ambulance call-outs are related to self harm, mental health or substance misuse,” Associate Professor Lloyd said.

“These figures are striking in terms of the magnitude of mental health problems, suicidal behaviour and overdose which our health services are facing,” 

In addition to self harm attendances, the research also found that during 2013 paramedics in Victoria also responded to:

2,076 accidental overdoses, and a further 2,905 overdoses where intent could not be determined
15,368 anxiety-related attendances
6,001 depression-related attendances
4,069 psychosis-related attendances

As well as researching a 12 month period during 2013 in Victoria, data in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory for a four month period in 2013 was also analysed, with similar concerning results. 

Associate Professor Lloyd said in the month of December 2013 alone, there were 1470 self harm-related ambulance attendances in Victoria, with 1744 in New South Wales, 1632 in Queensland, approximately 91 in Tasmania and approximately 68 in the ACT.

She said further research was needed to better identify and treat mental health issues at the frontline level and beyond.

“This work is world leading in that it provides unique data that is timely, detailed and robust in its identification and monitoring of patterns and characteristics of acute self harm and mental health cases nationally,” Assoc Prof Lloyd said.

Professor Dan Lubman, Director of Turning Point, also acknowledged the international significance of the work, and highlighted the importance of the findings in terms of health care policy and planning.

 “This report highlights the need for more open discussion about the significant impact of mental health on our community, and how we best implement the most effective prevention and treatment responses.”

Turning Point’s Self Harm and Mental Health-related Ambulance Attendances in Australia report was conducted in conjunction with Ambulance Victoria, NSW Ambulance, Queensland Ambulance Service, Ambulance Tasmania and ACT Ambulance Service . It was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health.

The full report can be found here.

For crisis or suicide prevention support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit