Conference finds trauma behind loss
Progress made in the Kimberley’s Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial was shared at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference last week, which drew leaders from across the country to discuss tackling high suicide rates in Aboriginal communities.
In 2017 alone, 165 Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people died by suicide, with a standardised death rate of 25.5 per 100,000 — considerably higher than the nonindigenous rate of 12.7 per 100,000 people.
Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services deputy chief executive Rob McPhee said a key issue identified in the Kimberley trial site and in programs shared throughout the conference, was deeply rooted in a traumatic past of colonialism.
“Even though it happened a long time ago, it created disconnect with country that’s had far-reaching effects,” he said.
“These are the undercurrent issues that need to be addressed.”
Mr McPhee said the Kimberley suicide prevention trial site was one of two Aboriginal-specific projects among 12 Federally-funded sites launched in August, 2016, which aimed to tackle stigma and curb incidents of suicide.
“It’s a lot to ask to switch from trauma to forward thinking, we learnt we really needed to allow for that healing process first,” he said.
While the first leg of the trial was heavily focused on hearing out community frustration, awarenessraising campaigns are being rolled out to encourage people to seek help early.
“A lot of it is generic enough so anyone who sees it will stop and think ‘that sounds like me’, but it also targets young people and men especially,” Mr McPhee said.
Of the 102 Aboriginal suicides in the Kimberley recorded from 20052014, about 70 per cent were male, 68 per cent of whom were under 30 and 27 per cent of whom were under 20.
The trial has been extended for another year.