Alarm over indigenous suicide
■ A leading researcher into indigenous mental health at the University of WA has used World Suicide Prevention Day to call for united action to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rates, which remain among the highest in the world.
Professor Pat Dudgeon and Professor Tom Calma run the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project, based at the university.
According to Professor Dudgeon, suicide is the leading cause of death in the 15 to 35 age group among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
He said suicide rates were double that of non-indigenous people, accounting for one in 19 deaths.
“This is a national crisis and strong and immediate action is needed, such as a national inquiry,” he said.
“However, an inquiry or royal commission should not pause or delay initiatives that are already in place, or are about to be put in place.”
ATSISPEP, funded by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and with partners including the Telethon Kids Institute WA and The Healing Foundation, is travelling around Australia convening regional roundtables to accompany a report to the Federal Government.
Bunuba Gija woman Adele Cox, who facilitated the roundtables from the Kimberley, said many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities believed suicide was normal.
“Things must change at government level, as well as at community level so that we support our kids, our families and our communities to change these attitudes and these behaviours,” she said.
Tom Price-based Applied Suicide Intervention Skills trainer Marian Hearne welcomed ATSISPEP’s work on indigenous suicide but said the issue affected the whole community.
“Suicide can strike anywhere, in the most unlikely of circumstances ... even the most seemingly happy and strong people can experience suicidal thoughts,” she said.
World Suicide Prevention Day was recognised on Thursday, September 10, to coincide with R U OK? Day in Australia.