The Australian Government has acted to provide immediate additional assistance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at risk of self-harm by supporting a new critical response initiative.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said today that this initiative responded to a warning from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) that the annual Christmas period was a time of peak vulnerability.
“The ATSISPEP is a national project run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention experts that is funded by the Australian Government and coordinated from the University of Western Australia,” Minister Scullion said.
“The experts have warned that the risk of self-harm in Indigenous communities peaks in December and January and that best way to tackle this is to provide practical support and help coordinate interventions.”
ATSISPEP project director and Indigenous Mental Health Commissioner, Professor Pat Dudgeon, said families and community leaders should keep an eye on the young and old during the Christmas and summer period.
“For many people it can be an especially lonely period where they no longer have their loved ones around,” Professor Dudgeon said.
ATSISPEP community consultant and suicide prevention researcher, Gerry Georgatos, said it was important people were supported before they reached breaking point.
“The festive and holiday period will be a difficult time for many. We’ve got to get through this period together, reducing the situational psychological stresses and hopefully thereafter people will be the stronger for this. There is no greater legacy than to help others. Changes save lives,” Mr Georgatos said.
“If you are an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aged 15 to 35 years, one in three deaths in this age group is a suicide.”
As an immediate response, Minister Scullion has authorised a critical response team to provide support to individuals, families and communities in response to suicides and help coordinate services in a culturally appropriate way.
“Tragically, in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities there are clusters of suicides and support services do not always encompass the family and community needs. These can range from simple, practical help and social support, through to professional counselling and psychological support services,” Minister Scullion said.
“Where there are shortfalls in the availability of services on the ground, the result is unnecessary stress and trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by suicide, with the effects amplified in remote communities.”
Download media release:
2015-12-13 ATSISPEP release.pdf