Almost non-existent 30 years ago, the rate of suicide and self harm amongst the First Australians has reached crisis levels, particularly in remote communities and amongst the youth. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states for young Aboriginal men, the rate is four times higher than their non-Indigenous counterparts, whilst for young Aboriginal women the rate is five times higher. In some remote communities in the Kimberley, spates of suicide have reached 100 times the national suicide average.
Families are reeling in grief, and communities are overwhelmed with what many are calling “an epidemic of self harm”. Something is desperately wrong and urgent action is needed to restore the balance of life in Aboriginal communities.
Suicide is an act of desperation, driven by a combination of life factors that negatively impact on that person’s social and emotional wellbeing. A number of ‘risk’ and ‘protective’ factors have been identified by community leaders, Elders and those working closely with Indigenous communities in Australia to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous people in Australia.
To address these factors, a holistic and community driven approach is needed, which Elders and community leaders are calling to lead, in order to reconnect their youth to community, family and culture, thereby restoring harmony in their communities.
At the Australian Society for Medical Research Indigenous Health Forum on Monday 16th November at Tandanya Cultural Institute, Yuin Elder Max Dulumunmun Harrison will talk about the ‘risk’ and ‘protective’ factors identified in an Elders-driven Report into preventing self harm and indigenous suicide.
Max Dulumunmun Harrison (Uncle Max) is the Project Director of The Culture Is Life campaign. This has created a platform for Indigenous Elders and community leaders to influence public awareness, policy-making and service provision around Indigenous suicide prevention to support the Indigenous-held position that culture and connection to country are vital foundations for social and emotional wellbeing in Indigenous communities.