NACCHO Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health News: Hidden barriers to talking about suicide

feature tile text 'hidden barriers to discussing suicide in ATSI communities' & grass with painted paper triangles of Aboriginal flags

Image in feature tile from The Conversation article ‘Why are we losing so many Indigenous children to suicide?’ 29 March 2019.

Hidden barriers to talking about suicide

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for Aboriginal Australians and there is an urgent need to actively engage with Aboriginal communities to better understand these issues and to develop solutions together to prevent deaths by suicide in Aboriginal communities.

Utilising a qualitative, thematic, cross-sectional design, a research team conducted focus groups in three communities in the Hunter New England area in NSW to explore the perceptions and views of Aboriginal participants in relation to discussing suicide. The key themes found to influence discussions about suicide in Aboriginal communities included the sense that suicide is a whole of community issue, the ripple effect of suicide deaths, silence about suicide and the impact of this silence, and being powerless to act. Participants described a reluctance to have discussions about suicide; feeling they had limited skills and confidence to have these sorts of discussions; and multiple and interrelated barriers to discussing suicide, including shame, fear and negative experiences of mental health care. Participants also described how their experiences maintained these barriers and prevented Aboriginal Australians from seeking help in suicidal crises.

The research concluded that future initiatives should address the interrelated barriers by supporting Aboriginal people to build skills and confidence in discussing suicide and mental health and by improving access to, and the experience of, mental health care and psychosocial and community-based supports for Aboriginal Australians. Trying to address any one of these factors in isolation may increase rather than decrease suicide risk in Aboriginal communities.

To access the research article in full click here.

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Updated booster advice for cancer patients

A 4th COVID-19 vaccine dose is now recommended for people over 16 years old who have severe immune suppression, including people with cancer. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) now recommends a 3rd primary dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for severely immunocompromised children and adults aged 5 years or older, and a booster (4th) dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, given 3 months after their primary course for those over the age of 16. The impact, safety and optimal timing of booster doses are continually reviewed by ATAGI. Reflecting the new recommendation by ATAGI, Cancer Australia has updated its information for people with cancer.

“Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program is designed to safeguard all people in Australia from the harm caused by COVID-19 primarily through preventing serious illness and death, said Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO Cancer Australia. “People with cancer may be immunocompromised by their cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, or the disease itself. As people who are severely immunocompromised may have a suboptimal response or non-response to the standard 2-dose primary vaccine schedule, ATAGI recommends a 3rd primary dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and then a 4th dose or booster in those 16 years and older, to increase their protection.”

Professor Keefe continued, “Current evidence suggests there is a reduction in protection against COVID-19 infection following vaccination over time. Protection against transmission from vaccinated individuals who are infected also appears to wane over time.” “Studies from around the world have shown the 4 vaccines and boosters approved for use in Australia to be safe and effective.”

For further information you can access the relevant page of the Australian Government Cancer Australia website here.

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Homelessness takes 30 years off life

When you don’t have a stable place to live, your health can be severely affected. Using a decade of data drawn from services who work with those living with homelessness, a new report has quantified just how their health is impacted, and what can be done about it.

David Pearson, CEO of the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness, Dr Daniel Nour, founder of Street Side Medics and 2022 Young Australian of the Year, and George Hatvani, Functional Zero Manager Launch Housing have spoken on ABC Radio Life Matters about the impacts on homelessness including on life expectancy.

To listen the ABC Radio Life Matters radio interview click here.

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Hearing audiologist in rural NSW

When Matthew Tanti first travelled to Broken Hill to provide outreach audiology services to the local community, he instantly knew he’d found his passion.  “That first week in Broken Hill just grabbed at my heart,” says Matt. “I really love going into communities, engaging with the people, learning about the culture, meeting and playing with the kids. It’s my job to do the hearing tests on the kids, so it’s really important that I earn their trust and they feel comfortable with me.”

He explained that, while the tests are safe and don’t hurt at all, not every child is open and willing to engage. “My approach is to spend some time with them and try, as much as possible, to see the situation through their eyes. Recently I needed to test a kid who was anxious about the process and didn’t want to come out from under the table. So, I laid down on the ground with him until he was comfortable and ready to go.”

“Showing the kids how the equipment works, using magic blocks and letting them pretend to test their teachers’ ears always helps to lessen any anxiety,” says Matt. The trick is to make it fun for the kids, so it’s more like a game than a medical appointment. That’s particularly important when the tests take place in a medical centre because kids sometimes associate that with vaccination and things that may not be as simple or as comfortable for them.”

Audiologists also need to build trust with parents and carers as they are essential to the hearing health assessment process and any follow-up care and support. “Parents are the experts when it comes to their own kids,” says Matt. “I need them to tell me all about their kids and any issues they have.

To read the case study in full click here.

Audiologist Max Tanti in shorts & t-shirt standing in dry outback rocky gorge

HAPEE audiologist Matthew Tanti.

Strong SWEB free online course

A free Strong Social & Emotional Wellbeing workshop is being provided by Western Sydney Recovery College. The workshop provides students with the cultural understanding required to deliver mental health services within a social and emotional wellbeing framework. The course is open to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. The learning outcomes reflect the key domains of competence required to practice within a social and emotional wellbeing framework when delivering mental health services to First Nation peoples in Australia, including:

  • Understanding the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and peoples.
  • Being able to explain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander concepts of social and emotional wellbeing.
  • Being able to recognise and work with risk and protective factors that affect social and emotional wellbeing.
  • Understanding the influence of the historical, political and social determinants on social and emotional wellbeing and mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Gaining an understanding of strength-based, trauma-informed practice when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Identifying the cultural basis of your own values and practices.

The workshop will be held online via Zoom on Wednesday, 2 March & Thursday, 3 March 2022, 9.30–11.30 AM and 1.00–3.00 PM.

For more information and to register for the workshop click here.

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Improving ‘poor’ Indigenous sleep health

Scientists are hoping to improve sleep health among Indigenous Australians after new research found they are far more likely to experience unhealthy slumber. Sleep coaches are being deployed in north-west Queensland to work with Indigenous youngsters in what is set to become the first of many projects in Australian communities.

James Cook University’s Yaqoot Fatima was part of a team that found while there was little research on Indigenous Australians’ sleep health, the limited results were startling. Data from nine studies on the topic indicated nearly 35% of Indigenous Australians reported a high prevalence of unhealthy sleep, compared to 20% of non-Indigenous adults.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if those figures were a lot higher, based on anecdotal evidence and through our work,” Dr Fatima said. “Based on this data we have found that sleep health for Indigenous Australians is really poor but it is not understood well. We are taking the next step to cover that, starting in the Queensland community and want to take it to other places like Darwin hopefully next year.”

To view The News Daily article in full click here.

blurred image man in bed awake, hand to head, clock 2.45am

Image source: Retail Pharmacy.

Putting research back in community hands

The Lowitja Institute has opened the door for the second timet o support innovative community-led research into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and businesses continually support the health and wellbeing of our people and communities. Lowitja Institute’s Seeding Grants program provides an opportunity for organisations to transform their ideas by putting research back into community hands,” said Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed, CEO of the Lowitja Institute.

The Lowitja Institute Seeding Grants program is offering grants of up to $35,000 to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and businesses. “Many Aboriginal-led organisations and businesses struggle to find resources to apply for or attract targeted research funding,” said Dr Mohamed. “These grants can build on their capacity to continue the great work they’re already doing to improve health outcomes for our peoples.”

Lowitja Institute team is available to answer your questions before you submit an application. Whether it’s a question about how to complete the application form or about your project idea, we’re here to help. Appointments will be available from the week commencing Monday 14 February 2022 between 11a:00 AM and 1:00 PM Monday to Friday until the application closing date.

To download an application form and book an appointment, click here. For more information, please contact Lowitja Institute using this link.

To apply click on this link. Applications close 11:59 PM AEDT Monday 7 March 2022.

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New process for job advertising

NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.

Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.

Healthy Lunchbox Week – 6–12 February 2022

Healthy Lunchbox Week is a Nutrition Australia initiative that aims to inspire parents and carers across Australia to create healthy lunchboxes their children will enjoy. Did you know children consume around 30% of their daily food intake at school? Most of this comes from the contents of their lunchbox. What children eat during their day at school plays a crucial role in their learning and development.

Healthy Lunchbox Week helps families prepare healthy lunchboxes by:

  • inspiring healthy lunchbox ideas and recipes
  • ensuring a healthy lunchbox balance across core food groups
  • awareness of lunchbox food hygiene and safety.

Healthy Lunchbox Week occurs at the start of Term 1 to help get kids and families set up for a healthy year of lunchboxes.

You can visit Nutrition Australia’s Healthy Lunchbox Week website for:

  • lunchbox friendly recipes
  • fact sheets and healthy lunchbox guides
  • videos.

tile text 'kids eat around a THIRD of their daily food at school... what goes into their LUNCHBOX matters' & image of salad sandwich & apple

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