Colo­nial trauma cre­ated dis­con­nect

Pilbara News - - News - Sarah Ison

Progress made so far in the Kim­ber­ley’s Abo­rig­i­nal Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Trial was shared at the Na­tional Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Con­fer­ence last month which drew to­gether lead­ers from across the coun­try to dis­cuss tack­ling high sui­cide rates in Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties.

In 2017 alone, 165 Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait is­lan­der peo­ples died by sui­cide, with a stan­dard­ised death rate of 25.5 per 100,000, which was con­sid­er­ably higher than the non-indige­nous sui­cide rate of 12.7 per 100,000 peo­ple.

Kim­ber­ley Abo­rig­i­nal Med­i­cal Ser­vices deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive Rob McPhee said a key is­sue iden­ti­fied not only in the Kim­ber­ley trial site, but in pro­grams shared through­out the con­fer­ence, was deep-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 af­fects,” 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.

“One of the im­por­tant lessons for us was the need for peo­ple in the com­mu­nity to do re­cov­ery and heal­ing,” he said.

“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.”

While the first leg of the trial was heav­ily fo­cussed on hear­ing out com­mu­nity frus­tra­tion, aware­ness-rais­ing cam­paigns are al­ready be­ing rolled out aimed at en­cour­ag­ing 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 be­tween 2005 to 2014, about 70 per cent were male, 68 per cent of whom were un­der 30 years and 27 per cent of whom were un­der 20.

“We need to work with young peo­ple, get into schools and use young peo­ple to share their sto­ries,” Mr Mcphee said.

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