What we do when it comes to suicide prevention…
What we do when it comes to suicide prevention …
Suicide has emerged in the past half century as a major cause of premature mortality and is a contributor to the overall health and life expectancy gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples1. In 2017 it was the fifth leading cause of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the age-standardised suicide rate was more than twice as high as the non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rate2. On average, over 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons end their lives through suicide each year, accounting for 1 in 20 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths.
The gaps are considerably greater in some regions and vary markedly by age and gender.
1. Suicide rates are typically much higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men than women.
2. The peak age of suicide is 30-34 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men (3 times the rate of other men of this age) and 20-24 years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women (4 times the rate of other women).
3. The suicide gap is largest among young people. The suicide rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 15-19 year old males (37.8 per 100,000 persons) and females (16.1) are around four times that for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males (10.1) and females (4.0). Similarly, for 20-24 year olds, the suicide rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males (64.2 per 100,000 persons) is over three times the rate for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males (19.3) and the rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females (20.1) is four times that for non- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females (5.0).
Over the last several years Babana has been organising a suicide prevention awareness day that focused in on raising awareness about the issue in our community and some of the things that can be done to address it. But, for many, the daily struggle of life continued the day after the event which led us to start developing a series of tools and a support network that could live on past a single day and be accessed when and where people needed it. As a starting point more than 150 people and organisations came to our suicide prevention awareness day hosted by our local area health service. The Focus was to unravel all the different things that challenge our people and how that might look if we were to build a support network. One of the key lessons was that its not always about mental health. In fact, many people said that it ends up being a mental health issue, a deep dive into depression and suicidal thoughts because small things can get out of hand very quickly.
Small things that become over whelming to deal with such as loss of a job or the inability to get one, homelessness or the inability to keep up with mortgage or rental payments, inability to put food on the table or pay the power bill, keeping up with the mounting cost of living, relationship breakdowns and loss of identity or the loss of connection to county.
The community response and input were immense and played into “where do we go from here?”. The answer was to bring the community together once more (November 23rd), a month after the last gathering, with a way forward – and ensuring that it was not a long gap between the last awareness day and whatever was going to happen next. In the meantime, the team at Babana worked on refining the model of support away from just being all about mental health and into all of the different service providers and support networks that needed to play into what would help someone through their dark times. Two things were born as a result. The first is a new, simple to use resource called “how to have a yarn and where to get some help”. It is a simple to use guide outlining some of the ways you can open a conversation, recognising the signs that someone may need help and where to refer them to if they need more support – support that includes a range of service providers and helplines that are broader than just mental health alone.
The second is the development of a peer to peer support network that is for Aboriginal people and by Aboriginal people. It was important feedback from both of our awareness days that Aboriginal people felt most comfortable when talking with one of their own. Using the Wesley Lifeforce model, combined with cultural awareness and sensitivities, our new peer to peer support network is now calling for volunteers (see the link below to apply or show interest).
All of that aside the 23rd of November was all about the community response to suicide prevention. It was also about connecting people to country, of showing service providers and those active in the community about why it is important to understand culture, to showcase the “where to from here” moment and, in doing so, seek the communities feedback on the final way forward. To that end Shane Phillips, former Australian of the Year and CEO of Tribal Warrior led off the connection to country, our partners at the Glen Rehab from the Central Coast showcased how that translates in terms of their own journeys and road to recovery while our friends from KPMG acted as scribes to collect the data and feedback from our workshops. Importantly it was our own mob that led the conversation, facilitated the working groups and who have been working to pull everything together.
So, now, the way forward. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer for our peer to peer support network then please fill out the form and push the submit button or if you would just like to know what to look out for, how to have a yarn or where to seek some help if you need to please download our “how to have a yarn …” pamphlet. And don’t forget our monthly men’s group meetings are all about you – empowering you to be all you can be and to be there to support you when you need it.