NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SuicidePrevention News Alerts : #Closethegap : #NACCHO and @TheRACP Peak Health bodies call for Prime Minister and state and territory leaders to declare Aboriginal youth #suicide crisis an urgent national health priority

The recent Aboriginal youth suicides represent a national emergency that demands immediate attention.

Aboriginal community controlled health services need to be properly resourced to ensure our children are having regular health checks and to develop community led solutions.’

NACCHO CEO, Ms Patricia Turner : See NACCHO RACP press release : see Part 1 below

See all 130 + NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Suicide Prevention articles published over last 7 years 

“Funded programs are not required to demonstrate a measurable reduction in suicide and mental health risk factors, which is staggering,

We just aren’t demanding that basic level of accountability

The first priority must be analyses of suicide mortality data to identify the causal pathways,  

Suicide risk is the most complex thing to assess and monitor … communities are crying out for specialist assistance and just not getting it. “Children as young as 10 are dying by suicide … this is no longer an Aboriginal issue, it’s a national one,

Indigenous psychologist Adjunct Professor Tracy Westerman said Australia had failed to collect crucial evidence to determine what intervention strategies work. See Part 2 below 

 ” Community driven action plans to prevent suicide are extending across the Kimberley, with four more communities implementing plans to save lives and improve health and well-being.

As part of the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial, Kununurra, Balgo, Wyndham and Halls Creek now have local plans, joining Broome, Derby and Bidyadanga.

Each community receives up to $130,000 to help roll out its action plan which reflects and responds to local issues

See Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release and Communique Part 3 and 4 Below

Part 1 RACP and NACCHO Press Release

JOINT STATEMENT

HEALTH BODIES DECLARE ABORIGINAL YOUTH SUICIDE AN URGENT NATIONAL PRIORITY

  • Health bodies call for Prime Minister and state and territory leaders to declare urgent national health priority
  • Immediate investment in Aboriginal-led mental health and wellbeing services needed to stop child deaths
  • Long-term solution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination requires commitment to Uluru Statement from the Heart

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) are calling on the Prime Minister to make tackling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicides a national health priority.

Suicide was once unknown to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but now every community has been affected by suicide.

In response to the recent Aboriginal youth suicides and the release of the WA Coroner’s report on the inquest into the deaths of thirteen children and young persons in the Kimberley Region, we are calling on the Prime Minister and state and territory leaders to put the issue at the top of the COAG agenda and to implement a coordinated crisis response to urgently scale up Aboriginal led mental health services before more young lives are tragically lost.

An urgent boost to Aboriginal community controlled health services is required to build on the existing range of initiatives that are being rolled out. We also call on the Government to expand upon evidence-based resilience and cultural connection programs to be adapted and attuned to local needs.

We are calling on the Federal Government to:

  • Provide secure and long-term funding to Aboriginal community controlled health services to expand their mental health, social and emotional wellbeing, suicide prevention, and alcohol and other drugs services, using best-practice traumainformed approaches
  • Increase funding for ACCHSs to employ staff to deliver mental health and social and emotional wellbeing services, including psychologists, psychiatrists, speech pathologists, mental health workers and other professionals and workers;
  • Increase the delivery of training to Aboriginal health practitioners to establish and/or consolidate skills development in mental health care and support, including suicide prevention
  • Commit to developing a comprehensive strategy to build resilience and facilitate healing from intergenerational trauma, designed and delivered in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

RACP spokesperson Dr Mick Creati, said: “The unspeakable child suicide tragedy that has been unfolding requires a national response and the attention of the Prime Minister. Unless we see urgent boost to investment in Aboriginal-led mental health services then the deaths will continue.”

RANZCP President Dr Kym Jenkins, said: ‘We must address the factors underlying suicidality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including intergenerational trauma, disadvantage and distress. For this, we urgently need an increased capacity of mental health and wellbeing services to help people and communities recover from trauma and build resilience for the future.’

Part 2 Leaders urged to declare Aboriginal child suicides a ‘national crisis’

 Kate Aubusson From the Brisbane Times 20 March 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison must declare Indigenous child suicides a national emergency and overhaul current strategies, peak medical and health bodies have demanded.

The call comes in the wake of harrowing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child suicide rates, and the WA coroner’s inquest into the deaths of 13 young people, five aged between 10 and 13 years in the Kimberley region.

A joint statement from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has urged Mr Morrison and all state and territory leaders to make Indigenous youth suicides an “urgent national health priority”.

The organisations called on the leaders to launch a “coordinated crisis response” and invest in Aboriginal-led strategies “before more young lives are tragically lost”.

In January, five Aboriginal girls aged between 12 and 15 years took their own lives.

The latest ABS data shows Indigenous children aged 10 to 14 die of suicide at 8.4 times the rate of non-Indigenous children. One in four aged under 18 who suicided were Aboriginal.

None of the 13 children who died by suicide had a mental health assessment, according to the coroner’s report.

The international journal The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health recently called Australia’s Indigenous youth suicide rate an “unmitigated crisis”.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner said the recent Aboriginal youth suicides was “a national emergency that demands immediate attention”.

The joint statement called for Indigenous community-led solutions, long-term funding boosts to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) for best-practice and trauma-informed mental health, suicide prevention, and drug and alcohol programs.

The organisations also pushed for more ACCHS funding to employ more psychologists, psychiatrists, speech pathologists and mental health workers, increase training for Aboriginal health practitioners to develop a comprehensive strategy focused on resilience and intergenerational trauma healing.

In September the Morrison government announced $36 million in national suicide prevention projects.

Paediatrician with Victorian Aboriginal Health Service Dr Mick Creati said Indigenous suicides could not be prevented by a “white bread psychiatry model”.

Aboriginal suicides were often radically different from those among the general population, research shows. They were more likely to be impulsive, potentially triggered by some kind of interpersonal conflict.

The crisis demanded a “different, culturally appropriate model”, Dr Creati said.

“We don’t know exactly what the right model is yet … but Aboriginal people need to be included [in their development] to make sure they are appropriate for Aboriginal populations.”

But Indigenous psychologist Adjunct Professor Tracy Westerman said Australia had failed to collect crucial evidence to determine what intervention strategies work.

“Funded programs are not required to demonstrate a measurable reduction in suicide and mental health risk factors, which is staggering,” Professor Westerman said.

“We just aren’t demanding that basic level of accountability”.

The first priority must be analyses of suicide mortality data to identify the causal pathways,  Professor Westerman said.

“Suicide risk is the most complex thing to assess and monitor … communities are crying out for specialist assistance and just not getting it. “Children as young as 10 are dying by suicide … this is no longer an Aboriginal issue, it’s a national one,” she said.

Part 3 The eighth meeting of the Kimberley Suicide Prevention Trial Working Group was held on 14 March in Broome communique

The Working Group discussed the findings of WA Coroner’s Report into suicide deaths in the Kimberley and continued its consideration of resources and strategies to support activity as part of the suicide Prevention trial.

The meeting today was chaired by the Hon Ken Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Health (Commonwealth) and attended by the Hon Roger Cook, Deputy Premier and Minister for Health (WA State Government), Senator the Hon Patrick Dodson (Commonwealth) and Member for the Kimberley, the Hon Josie Farrer MLC (WA State Government). Apologies were received from the Hon Ben Wyatt, Minister for Indigenous Affairs (WA State Government).

The meeting was also attended by over 40 representatives from communities, organisations and government agencies.

Key messages from today’s discussion included:

  • A shared commitment to work together at all levels of government to develop place-based, and Aboriginal-led and designed responses.
  • A commitment to ongoing collaboration.
  • Acknowledgement of the good work achieved thus far – but noting more needs to be done.
  • The role of the community liaison officers on the ground across Kimberley communities was highlighted as an example of good progress – connecting services and projects with what people want.
  • The need to continue mapping services was agreed.
  • The need for holistic approaches was highlighted.
  • Community organisations are keen to work with the State and Commonwealth Governments on solutions that address the recommendations in relation to the report of the WA Coronial Inquest and all other referenced reports.

Part 4 Minister Wyatt Press release

Community driven action plans to prevent suicide are extending across the Kimberley, with four more communities implementing plans to save lives and improve health and well-being.

As part of the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial, Kununurra, Balgo, Wyndham and Halls Creek now have local plans, joining Broome, Derby and Bidyadanga.

Each community receives up to $130,000 to help roll out its action plan which reflects and responds to local issues.

However, the four new plans have a common thread – they are centred on people working and walking together on country, with a series of camps involving high-risk groups.

The camps are planned to provide a range of supports around suicide including healing and sharing and respecting cultural knowledge and traditions. They will also support close engagement with Elders.

A strong cultural framework underpins all the Trial’s activities and all the projects identified by the communities fit within the systems-based approach, guided by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP).

Nine communities are involved in the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial, with Community Liaison Officers playing a critical role.

The outcomes will contribute to a national evaluation which aims to find the most effective approaches to suicide prevention for at-risk populations and share this knowledge across Australia.

The Morrison Government is supporting the Kimberley Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Trial with $4 million over four years, from 2016-2020.

It is one of 12 Suicide Prevention Trials being conducted across the nation, with total funding of $48 million.

NACCHO Aboriginal Youth Health #ClosingTheGap #Mentalheath : @SandraEades Connection to our country, culture and family can be profoundly healing. #OurHealthOurChoiceOurVoice Addressing the health deficits that young Aboriginal people face

For Aboriginal people, connection to our country, culture and family can be profoundly healing. But in the many decades we’ve spent working to improve the health of Australia’s first peoples, it’s a strength that has too often been ignored and squandered.

We need to change that, especially when it comes to addressing the health deficits that young Aboriginal people face, the great burden of which is their mental health.

And in their case, the strengths we need to build on includes the young people themselves.” 

PROFESSOR SANDRA EADES Associate Dean (Indigenous), Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne

This article was first published on Pursuit. Read the original article.

” Culturally-appropriate care and safety has a vast role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of our people.

In this respect, I want to make special mention of the proven record of the Aboriginal Community Health Organisations in increasing the health and wellbeing of First Peoples by delivering culturally competent care.

I’m pleased to be here at this conference, which aims to make a difference with a simple but sentinel theme of investing in what works, surely a guiding principle for all that we do

Providing strong pointers for this is a new youth report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Equipped with this information, we can connect the dots – what is working well and where we need to focus our energies, invest our expertise, so our young people can reap the benefits of better health and wellbeing “

Minister Ken Wyatt launching AIHW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Adolescent and Youth Health and Wellbeing 2018 report at NACCHO Conference 31 October attended by over 500 ACCHO delegates including 75 ACCHO Youth delegates

Read Download Report HERE

NACCHO Youth Conference 2018

Consider this: Over 75 per cent of Aboriginal young people aged 15 to 24 report being happy all or most of the time.

That is according to last year’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent and youth health and wellbeing report, by the advisory group I chaired.

The report also found that over 60 per cent of Aboriginal young people recognise their traditional homelands, and over half identify with their clan or language group.

And they are increasingly finishing school and saying no to smoking. In the ten years to 2016, the proportion of Aboriginal young people completing Year 12 rose from 47 per cent to 65 per cent. Among 15 to 24-year-olds, some 56 per cent now report never having smoked compared with just 44 per cent in 2002.

In terms of alcohol consumption among Aboriginal aged 18 to 24 years old, some 65 per cent report that in the last two weeks they either hadn’t had a drink or hadn’t exceeded alcohol risk guidelines. That compares with just 33 per cent of non-Aboriginal 18 to 24-year-olds.

And what do they say when we ask them what they stress about most? Getting a job.

Aboriginal young people know the trajectory they want to take. They want to complete school, go to TAFE or University, and most of all get into work.

This tells us that we have a real opportunity to help them. Like all young people, it’s about helping them achieve small wins that can then build into bigger victories.

If you were to say to someone of British heritage that to be really Australian they had to leave Britain behind, forget their connection to their heritage and integrate, you would be laughed at.

But that is the message that has long been given to Aboriginal people even though we have over 50,000 years of connection to this country.

So, it should be no surprise we don’t feel we have to let go of our culture or let go of the strengths that go with being Aboriginal.

It is these unique strengths that we need to get better at integrating into how we deliver healthcare if we are to address the health gap. And the health gap is real.

Aboriginal young people have higher rates of mortality, self-harm and psychological distress.

Youth is a period of our lives when we are supposed to experiment and take risks. But if you are from a disadvantaged group, and being Aboriginal is the most disadvantaged group in the Australia, the issues of living with this disadvantage and intergenerational trauma, can tip the balance towards unhealthy risk taking.

The mental balance can tip towards hopelessness and despair.

But the overwhelming message from this report is that these health deficits are preventable conditions, and that a large part of the problem is gaps in services and support.

Young people aren’t easy to reach. In my career I’ve researched Aboriginal mothers, babies, young children and older people, and they are all much easier to engage with in health settings – but young people don’t tend to hang out at health clinics.

Engaging with young people isn’t an impossible challenge. In our NextGen research, in which we are surveying face-to-face over 2,000 Aboriginal young people about sensitive health topics, we have had to work differently to connect with them. Where we have had success is in the home and in community neighbourhood centres.

In many respects it is obvious. In our preliminary data, of the young people who tell us they have mental health issues, some 70 per cent say their parent and families are the first people they talk to about their problems.

It tells you that if you want to engage with Aboriginal young people you need to be engaging with their families. We need to rethink how services are delivered if we are to make them more effective in engaging with young people.

Since the 1970s, when the first Aboriginal health service opened in Sydney’s Redfern, a whole network has emerged and they are terrific. But they are largely geared toward maternal and child health, and the treatment of chronic conditions that affect mostly older people.

We need to think about how services can be made more accessible to young people specifically, and look at different delivery models. It might be that we need to extend existing services or we might need to look at creating dedicated services, in the same way that the Headspace mental health services are targeted at youth.

Whatever we do it will require more investment at a time when Aboriginal health services have been under severe funding pressure ever since the 2014 Federal government budget cuts.

But improving the health of young Aboriginals goes well beyond the health sector.

According to the report, among Aboriginal 15 to 24-year-olds, a third reported being unfairly treated because of their indigeneity in the last 12 months. And the most frequent setting for unfair treatment was school, in a training course, or at university.

This underlines the importance of educational institutions in embracing Aboriginal culture.

When I went to university in the 1980s the expectation was that we would have to leave our culture at the door. That is now changing thanks to the hard work of many people and universities have created dedicated centres of Aboriginal culture, like Murrup Barak at the University of Melbourne. This work needs to continue.

We need to allow Aboriginal young people to be who they are, and that means helping them to draw on the strengths in themselves and the strengths in the culture and community they rely on.

This article was first published on Pursuit. Read the original article.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #Drugs #Alcohol : Minister @senbmckenzie An additional 72 Local Drug Action Teams #LDATs will be rolled out across the nation to tackle the harm caused by drugs and alcohol misuse on individuals and families.

 

“ It’s fantastic to welcome 72 new LDATs to the program who will develop and deliver local plans and activities to prevent alcohol and drug misuse in their local communities.

Today’s announcement brings the total number of LDATs to 244 across Australia, exceeding our target of 220 by 2020.

LDATs bring together community organisations to tackle substance misuse which can have devastating impacts on our communities – especially in rural and regional areas – and it’s clear that our communities are increasingly becoming empowered to take action at the local level.

The LDAT partnerships include local councils, service providers, schools, police, young people, Indigenous and primary health services and other non-government organisations, and the teams will have support from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to assist in prevention activities,” 

Minister for Regional Services, Senator Bridget McKenzie

Download the list 

List of all LDATs by jurisdication and grant round Feb 2019

See NACCHO LDAT ACCHO Coverage HERE 

May 2018 : The Senator with Alcohol and Drug Foundation CEO Dr Erin Lalor and  General Manager of Congress’ Alice Springs Health Services, Tracey Brand in Alice Springs talking about the inspirational Central Australian Local Drug Action Team at Congress and announcing 92 Local Drug Action Teams across Australia building partnerships to prevent and minimise harm of ice alcohol & illicit drugs use by our youth with local action plans

Part 1 Press Release 

Speaking at the Wellington LDAT site in Sale, Victoria, the Minister for Regional Services, Senator Bridget McKenzie today congratulated the local community organisations, along with their partners, that will receive funding from the Federal Government through the fourth round of the successful Local Drug Action Team Program.

The new LDATs are being supported through the $298 million investment under the National Ice Action Strategy to combat drug and alcohol misuse across Australia.

Each of the 72 LDATs will receive an initial $10,000 to help them to refine a local community action plan. Each team will have an opportunity to apply for additional funding to support the delivery of local activities once their plans are finalised.

The Member for Gippsland Darren Chester welcomed today’s funding announcement.

“It’s important that we try to stop people in our community from trying illicit drugs for the first time and reduce binge drinking and alcohol abuse,” Mr Chester said. “One way of doing that is to ensure that everyone feels they are part of the community.”

”Gippsland is no different to other areas and drugs and alcohol are ruining lives and devastating families. Ice and other drugs do not discriminate.

“Many of us personally know families in our community who are dealing with the fallout of these insidious drugs.

“This funding enables the community to band together to fight the problem.”

Minister McKenzie said the LDATs announced will be supported to identify and deliver evidence based prevention, promotion and harm-reduction activities which will work for their local community.

Minister McKenzie acknowledged the importance of LDATs for driving change at a local level and highlighted the great work coming out of the program.

“The Hepburn LDAT, for instance, in Victoria is working to prevent and minimise harm from alcohol and drug misuse by improving access to education and skills development for young people,” Minister McKenzie said.

“The team has developed a 19-week program to up-skill young people and help them to build confidence, improve their knowledge about health and reconnect with their community.”

The Local Drug Action Team Program is a key component of the National Ice Action Strategy.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs treatment services, please call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.

More information about LDATs can be found on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website.

Alcohol and other drug-related harms are mediated by a number of factors – those that protect against risk, and those that increase risk. For example, factors that protect against alcohol and other drug-related harms include social connection, education, safe and secure housing, and a sense of belonging to a community.

Factors that increase risk of alcohol and other drug-related harms include high availability of drugs, low levels of social cohesion, unstable housing, and socioeconomic disadvantage. Most of these factors are found at the community level and must be targeted at this level for change.

Alcohol and other drugs are a community issue, not just an individual issue. Community action to prevent alcohol and other drug-related harms is effective because:

  • the solutions and barriers (protective/risk factors) for addressing alcohol and other drug-related harm are community-based
  • it creates change that is responsive to local needs
  • it increases community ownership and leads to more sustainable change

We encourage Local Drug Action Teams (LDATs) to link with and/or build on existing activity approaches that have been shown to work.

Select an existing evidence-based activity

Existing activities may have an alcohol and other drug focus, or possibly a different overall focus such as preventing gambling harm, or enhancing mental wellbeing. Be prepared to look outside the alcohol and other drug sector for possible approaches; for example, activities that share a focus on strengthening communities to improve other health and social outcomes.

A limited number of existing activities are listed below. You may also find other activities through local health services, peak bodies and by drawing on local knowledge and networks you have access to.

Existing strong and connected community activities in Australia:

Delivered by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation , the Good Sports Program works with local sporting clubs across Australia to provide a safe and inclusive environment, where everyone can get involved. The activity has run for nearly two decades and is proven to reduce harm and positively influence health behaviours, as well as strengthen club membership and boost participation.

Established 25 years ago, Big hART engages disadvantaged communities around Australia in art.

Community Hubs provides a welcoming place for migrant women and their children to learn about the Australian education system. With strong evaluation to support the effectiveness of the program, Community Hubs focuses on engagement, English, early-years and vocational pathways.

A national organisation that uses sport and art to improve the lives of people experiencing complex disadvantage.

If you have found some existing activities that could be incorporated, it is useful to seek out further information to find out if it is relevant.

You might want to consider the following questions (some answers may be available online, others you may have to seek directly from the organisation):

  • Does the activity align with your community needs?
  • Is the activity available in your geographic area? If face-to-face delivery is not available, is remote access an option?
  • Has the activity been shown to be effective at strengthening community cohesion and connection, and reducing and preventing alcohol and other drug-related harms? What evidence is available to demonstrate this?

Due to the limited number of existing activities available and the need for tailored approaches, many Local Drug Action Teams will work with partners to develop and deliver a targeted activity in their community. Review the paragraph below d. Determine resources required and Map your steps for insight into what is required when developing new approaches.

NACCHO Aboriginal #MentalHealth : Minister @KenWyattMP and @NRL roll out the Indigenous All Stars #StateofMind mental health program @DeadlyChoices

” Mental health is about being able to work and study to your full potential, cope with day-to-day life stresses, be involved in your community, and live your life in a free and satisfying way. A person who has good mental health has good emotional and social wellbeing and the capacity to cope with change and challenges.

Feeling down, tense, angry, anxious or moody are all normal emotions for people, but when these feelings persist for long periods of time, or if they begin to interfere with their daily life, they may be part of a mental health problem.

Mental health problems can affect your feelings, thoughts and actions, and can affect your ability to function in their everyday activities, whether at school, at work, or in relationships.

If you feel you know a person whose mental health is getting in the way of their daily life, it is important to let them know you are there to support them.

Most parents can tell when something is out of the ordinary, but there are also signs that suggest a young person might be experiencing a mental health problem. “

See Part 2 Below for More INFO and Support HELP Links

Read over 200 Aboriginal Mental Health articles published by NACCHO over past 7 years 

 ” The Federal Government is investing $660,000 over three years into the National Rugby League’s (NRL) Indigenous All Stars, State of Mind program.

The initiative will deliver mental health and resilience workshops to over 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including Indigenous All Stars players, youth summit participants and 15 grassroots clubs with a high proportion of First Nations players.

Elite players will be developed as mental health advocacy leaders within their clubs and communities, encouraging help-seeking behaviours. ”

Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release

With rugby league the most popular participation sport in First Nations communities, the NRL will leverage the game’s reach, profile, clubs and players, to help remove the stigma around mental illness.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience high, or very high, psychological distress, at a rate 2.6 times higher than the rest of the nation.

The NRL developed State of Mind in partnership with Lifeline, Kids Helpline, headspace and the Black Dog Institute.

State of Mind was promoted during the Indigenous All Stars game on Friday 15 February 2019 in Melbourne.

All Star Womens Team

The Deadly Choices and the VAHS ACCHO team set up outside of AAMI Park for the Indigenous All-Stars and visited the Fitzroy clinic

Mental health tools and resources, along with information about the program, is available on the NRL State of Mind website.

Our Government funds a number digital mental health and suicide prevention services, which support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including:

    • $34 million from 2017-19 for BeyondBlue, to provide information, resources and services on their website that support social and emotional wellbeing
    • $16.9 million from 2018-21 for MindSpot, for their free, national online clinic for the treatment of anxiety and depression
    • $6.4 million per year for headspace for their eheadspace program, which provides free, confidential and anonymous telephone and web-based support for young people aged 12 to 25 years with, or at risk of developing, mild to moderate mental illness.

If you need help now

If you are in an emergency situation or need immediate assistance, contact mental health services or emergency services on 000.

If you need to speak to someone urgently, call Lifeline on 13 11 14or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Or contact one of our 302 ACCHO Clinics

Part 2 State of Mind 

Signs and Symptoms

It can be helpful to talk to someone about what’s going on in your life if you have noticed a change in how you are feeling and thinking. This might include:

  • Feeling things have changed or aren’t quite right
  • Changes in the way that you carry out your day-to-day life
  • Not enjoying, or not wanting to be involved in things that you would normally enjoy
  • Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
  • Being easily irritated or having problems with friends and family for no reason
  • Finding your performance at school, TAFE, university or work is not as good as it used to be
  • Being involved in risky behavior that you would usually avoid, like taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol, or depending on these substances to feel “normal”
  • Feeling sad or ‘down’ or crying for no apparent reason
  • Having trouble concentrating or remembering things
  • Having negative, distressing, bizarre or unusual thoughts
  • Feeling unusually stressed or worried.

Metal health risk factors

A number of overlapping factors may increase your risk of developing a mental health problem. These can include:

  • Early life experiences: abuse, neglect, or the loss of someone close to you
  • Individual factors: level of self-esteem, coping skills and thinking styles
  • Current circumstances: stress at school or work, money problems, difficult personal relationship, or problems within your family
  • Biological factors: family history of mental health problems

Looking after your mental health

here are a number of things you can do to look after and maintain your mental health and wellbeing. For example, many people cope with stress by getting involved with sports, exercising, meditating, or practising yoga or relaxation techniques. Others express themselves through art, such as poetry, writing or music. What you eat might also affect your mood – a well-balanced diet will help keep you both physically and mentally healthy.

If you are concerned about your own or a friend’s mental health and wellbeing, headspace is a great place to go for help. Getting support can help you keep on track at school, study or work, and in your personal and family relationships. The sooner you get help the sooner things can begin to improve for you.

The link between good mental health and exercise

Physical exercise is good for our mental health and for our brains. Exercise seems to have an effect on certain chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) in the brain. Brain cells use these chemicals to communicate with each other, so they affect your mood and thinking. Exercise can also stimulate other chemicals in the brain (brain derived neurotrophic factors) which help new brain cells to grow and develop. Exercise also seems to reduce harmful changes in the brain caused by stress.

Any exercise is better than none. A moderate level of exercise seems to work best. This is roughly equivalent to walking fast, but being able to talk to someone at the same time. It’s recommended that if you’re aged 12-18 you need 60 minutes, or if you’re over 18 you need 30 minutes, of moderate physical exercise on most, but preferably all days. This can be done in one 30 minute session or broken up into shorter 10 or 15 minute sessions.

When you’re feeling down the last thing you might feel like doing is working out, but studies have suggested that any activity, from walking around the block to yoga to biking could contribute to improving the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Visit www.headspace.org.au for more information on all of the above topics.

NACCHO Aboriginal #Eldercare Health #Apology11 and #CaringForOurStolenGenerations How you can get involved ? : Stolen Generations want a commitment on aged care @KenWyattMP

Even compared to their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders contemporaries, who are already at a disadvantage in Australia, Stolen Generations members aged 50 and over are suffering more – financially, socially and in areas of health and wellbeing,

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were removed from their families are two times as likely to have been incarcerated and almost three times as likely to rely on government payments, compared to those who were not removed as children.

We’ve just been scratching the surface. We need government and service providers to commit to long term and widespread healing programs, trauma informed resources and culturally appropriate care.”

Chair of The Healing Foundation’s Stolen Generations Reference Group Ian Hamm said the data draws a clear distinction in the health and welfare outcomes between ageing Stolen Generations and the general Indigenous population.

Read NACCHO Elder Care Articles HERE 

Read NACCHO Stolen Generation Articles HERE

This year we will commemorate the National Apology to the Stolen Generations by sharing stories that have been shared with us over the years.

Witnessing the stories of Stolen Generation members who were removed from their homes, families and communities allows all Australians to join in on the healing journey and be part of the solution moving forward. This is the spirit of commemorating the National Apology.

We are sharing Stolen Generations stories via Facebook. Tune in on 13 February at 2pm and 6pm (AEST)

Share the Facebook event: http://bit.ly/2WUynLv

Eleven years on from the National Apology, members of the Stolen Generations are calling on governments to ensure aged care services are sensitive to their needs and support publicly funded alternatives to residential care that deal with trauma related issues arising from re-institutionalisation.

Hope Beyond the Window by Jacqui Stewart. The painting represents children from a Stolen Generation. The church symbolises religion and the window represents ‘hope’ looking through to the sky. The children are portraying despair but also at the same time hopefulness and belief for a better future. The old tree beside the church symbolises an Aboriginal Elder who is protecting and watching the children while the leaves illustrate “free spirits” flying through the wind. The painting was influenced by photographs of the Moore River Native Settlement in WA and the movie Rabbit Proof Fence. Image reproduced with kind permission from the artist.

Source: Stolen Generations stories – Creative Spirits, retrieved from 

It follows the release of data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that uncovers alarming and disproportionate levels of disadvantage for Stolen Generations aged 50 and over.

The AIHW report forecasts that by 2023 all remaining Stolen Generations survivors will be eligible for aged care. The data shows that 89 per cent of those aged 50 and over were not in good health and 76 per cent relied on government payments as their main source of income.

The Healing Foundation CEO Richard Weston said the report provides a clear evidence base to the complex needs of Stolen Generations aged 50 and over who suffered profound childhood trauma when they were forcibly removed from their homes, isolated from family and culture and often institutionalised, abused and assaulted.

“While appalling, this level of disadvantage should not come as a surprise. If people don’t have an opportunity to heal from trauma, it continues to impact on the way they think and behave, leading to a range of negative outcomes including poor health and isolation, which in turn leads to social and economic disadvantage,” Mr Weston said.

“The Aged Care Royal Commission has been running for less than a week and we’re already hearing about the profound trauma experienced by those in care. Clearly, the Stolen Generations need and deserve assistance in their aging years, but given their past experiences with institutionalisation, it’s vital that we find public funded alternatives that respond to trauma related issues.”

How you can get involved

-Share the Facebook event: http://bit.ly/2WUynLv
-Share the Stolen Generations stories via YouTube
-Visit our webpage to learn more about Apology11
-Share the factsheet: http://bit.ly/2I7xjk4
-Talk about the recent findings in the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations aged 50 and over report.

Tag us on Facebook: @Healing Foundation and Twitter: @healingourway using #Apology11 and#CaringForOurStolenGenerations

Read more: https://healingfoundation.org.au/app/uploads/2019/02/190212-Apology11-Caring-for-Stolen-Generations-InformationSheet.pdf

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SuicidePrevention : Minister @KenWyattMP @SenatorDodson and KAMS ACCHO respond to 42 recommendations of WA Coroner inquiry into the deaths of 13 Aboriginal children and young persons in the Kimberley region between 2012 and 2016


” Today, Western Australian State Coroner, Ros Fogliani, released her report of the investigation into the suicide deaths of 13 Indigenous young people that occurred between November 2012 and March 2016 in the Kimberley Region.

I cannot adequately express my sense of grief at the deaths of these young people. 

Nor can I ever comprehend the loss and devastation their families and their communities are feeling.

The families and communities who have experienced these tragedies have been deeply affected and the pain will never leave them.

The high rate of suicide among young First Australians is one of the nation’s most confronting challenges.

Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release see Part 1 Below

Download the 42 Recommendations 

13-Children-and-Young-Persons-in-the-Kimberley-Region-Finding

Key recommendations from the inquest:

  • Screen for foetal alcohol spectrum disorder during infant health assessments and when a child enters the child protection or justice systems for the first time
  • Restrict take away alcohol across the entire region, introduce a banned drinker register, resource police to enforce “sly grogging” regulations and provide more funding for patrols to take intoxicated people to a “safe place”
  • Extend an offer of a voluntary cashless debit card to the entire region
  • Build culturally-appropriate residential colleges for students who volunteer to be admitted with the consent of their parents and/or caregivers
  • Build a mental health facility in the East Kimberley that incorporates treatment for alcohol and drug abuse problems, and permanently base a mental health clinician in Halls Creek
  • Train child protection workers and teachers who have regular contact with Aboriginal children in suicide intervention and prevention
  • Expand the “Adopt-a-Cop” classroom program to improve the relationship between children and police, and expand a program where Aboriginal elders help conduct night patrols and speak with children on the streets
  • Introduce or continue to expand Aboriginal language classes in schools, and introduce re-engagement classrooms in primary schools to improve attendance rates
  • Consult more with Aboriginal people to “co-design” services and programs
  • Expand cultural programs including on-country trips, and develop or refurbish facilities for young people to meet and engage in activities.

“ The report handed down today must not join the 42 reports into Aboriginal well-being delivered over the last 15 years that simply sit and gather dust. This report must lead a paradigm shift that leads to community-led solutions that address the clear sense of suffering, hopelessness and disillusionment that is being felt.

We must continue to work towards building mabu ngarrungu, strong community, and mabu buru, strong country. Essential to this is mabu liyan – being well inside ourselves through strong connections to family, community and country. Government must understand us and our thinking around culture and well-being and not continue to simply impose its own views.

There is hope for a better way of doing things and to stop this sadness. It requires a resolve to work with First Nations peoples to establish new ways.”

Senator Patrick Dodson See full Press Release Part 2 Below

The issues are complex. It is not something that we can simply resolve by one program or one set of funding. It is something we need to tackle across the community with the help of the government,

A shift in the way major support services approach remote communities is needed to address the specific needs.

I think we’ve got a lot of mainstream services trying to impose a particular model on the needs of the community. What we really need is to work with the community to understand what are the needs; and design the services to respond to the needs.

“We can’t continue to impose things because an organisation simply says they’re the best organisation to deliver it.”

Rob McPhee, Deputy CEO of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services, said it was going to take years to tackle the complex issues that arose in the report, but action was needed.

“I think it’s a real difference to the language I have heard previously. I thought there was recognition of all the issues that contribute to Indigenous suicide,

I think it’s not only good for the Kimberley, the outcomes, but it’s good for the whole country.”

To hear the recommendations about the social determinants, that holistic approaches are required,” 

Indigenous Health Professor Pat Dudgeon at the University of Western Australia said she felt the report showed recognition to the issues that have contributed to Indigenous suicide.

View further Interview HERE

The RACGP and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)’s National guide to a preventive health assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people includes sections relevant to suicide intervention and prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth:

  • Child health – FASD, prevention of child maltreatment, and supporting families to optimise child safety and wellbeing
  • The health of young people – social and emotional wellbeing and drug use
  • Mental health – prevention of depression and suicide
  • Lifestyle – including alcohol
  • Family abuse and violence

Read over 130+ Aboriginal Health and Suicide Prevention Articles published by NACCHO over past 7 years 

Part 1

Our national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide death rate is more than double the rate of the rest of Australian society. And among 15 to 34 year olds, it’s three times as high.

The inquest has found common elements and factors contributing to the suicide deaths of the 13 young people.

These include alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poor living conditions and poor school attendance. Tragically, these young people were never able to reach out for help from support services.

There are 42 recommendations in Ms Fogliani’s report. These recommendations have been made to help target the causes of the issues.

A number of recommendations highlighted the need for suicide programs to be culturally sensitive, and that genuine and empowered relationships with First Nations communities are critical for the success of any program.

The report also highlights the need for better coordination between government agencies responsible for suicide prevention, and has recommended a Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People be established.

The Australian Government has taken prompt action to address youth suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

On 25 January 2019, I hosted an urgent meeting in Perth with experts and members from the communities to discuss how best to respond to these recent tragedies.

As a result, an additional almost $5 million has been provided for a range of initiatives, including:

  • fast tracking the rollout of the Be You school-based support in the Kimberley and Pilbara
  • delivering of a targeted social media campaign
  • expanding of the Young Ambassadors for Mental Health project to include a special focus in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth
  • supporting to families dealing with grief with a focus on suicide prevention.
  • commitment to working with my WA state colleagues.

The Australian Government also provides $4 million to each of the 12 National Suicide Prevention Trial sites, including two sites for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the Kimberley and Darwin.

The report provides a unique opportunity to rethink how we do things with local communities.

I will be reviewing the coroner’s report as a matter of urgency.

The Australian Government will carefully consider the WA Coroner’s report and recommendations. These will inform the Government’s approach towards the issue of Indigenous suicide in the Kimberley region going forward.

Part  2

Today is a difficult day for the Kimberley and the families of those who passed away.

Today, after nearly three years, State Coroner Ros Fogliani has delivered her findings in a significant inquiry into the deaths of 13 Aboriginal children and young persons in the Kimberley region between 2012 and 2016.

The Coroner’s findings were handed down in Perth, and live-streamed to the Regional Courts of Broome, Kununurra, Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek. I sat in the Broome Court and it was crowded with a good cross-section of the community.

This inquiry confirms what we already know – we have a crisis in the Kimberley. The rate of suicide in the Kimberley by Indigenous people, in particular young Indigenous people, is amongst the highest in the world. The Coroner reinforced the well-known social determinants of well-being which First Nations peoples live in.

Ten years have passed since the last major inquiry into the deaths of young Indigenous people – the Hope Inquest. Today confirms yet again, we have made little or no progress.

Clearly, the policies and service delivery that address suicide in our communities are failing and our people are losing hope. Too much seems to be reliant on being delivered from the outside and not from within our community or the Kimberley.

Today, on this day of sorrow and reflection, we must re-think the way we address Indigenous youth suicide.

There needs to be a new form of engagement with Indigenous communities and young people need to have a voice and role in future initiatives if we are to fix the issues and deliver the opportunities for change in the future.

The Coroner, in her final key recommendation, emphasised the principles of self-determination and empowerment in initiatives, policies and programs relating to First Nations peoples. She has relied on the expressed aspirations of the Western Australian Government. The Western Australian Government must now honour this with First Nations people.

Any new approach must be informed by a rigorous analysis of the values driving the delivery of services. It must be holistic and therapeutic – addressing the complex needs of entrenched socio-economic disadvantage, unresolved trauma, cultural disruption, and systemic social exclusion and disempowerment. We need to prioritise programs that value cultural imperatives and programs controlled by Indigenous people.

There is no magical solution to be handed down by government. But government must work in collaboration with communities to achieve a new social order

NACCHO Aboriginal #MentalHealth and #JunkFood : Increasing how much exercise we get and switching to a healthy diet can also play an important role in treating – and even preventing – depression

” The review found that across 41 studies, people who stuck to a healthy diet had a 24-35% lower risk of depressive symptoms than those who ate more unhealthy foods.

These findings suggest improving your diet could be a cost-effective complementary treatment for depression and could reduce your risk of developing a mental illness.

From the Conversation / Megan Lee

 ” NACCHO Campaign 2013 : Our ‘Aboriginal communities should take health advice from the fast food industry’ a campaign that eventually went global, reaching more than  20 million Twitter followers.”

See over 60 NACCHO Healthy Foods Articles HERE

See over 200 NACCHO Mental Health articles HERE 

Worldwide, more than 300 million people live with depression. Without effective treatment, the condition can make it difficult to work and maintain relationships with family and friends.

Depression can cause sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, and a lack of interest in activities that are usually pleasurable. At its most extreme, it can lead to suicide.

Depression has long been treated with medication and talking therapies – and they’re not going anywhere just yet. But we’re beginning to understand that increasing how much exercise we get and switching to a healthy diet can also play an important role in treating – and even preventing – depression.

So what should you eat more of, and avoid, for the sake of your mood?

Ditch junk food

Research suggests that while healthy diets can reduce the risk or severity of depression, unhealthy diets may increase the risk.

Of course, we all indulge from time to time but unhealthy diets are those that contain lots of foods that are high in energy (kilojoules) and low on nutrition. This means too much of the foods we should limit:

  • processed and takeaway foods
  • processed meats
  • fried food
  • butter
  • salt
  • potatoes
  • refined grains, such as those in white bread, pasta, cakes and pastries
  • sugary drinks and snacks.

The average Australian consumes 19 serves of junk food a week, and far fewer serves of fibre-rich fresh food and wholegrains than recommended. This leaves us overfed, undernourished and mentally worse off.

Here’s what to eat instead

Mix it up. Anna Pelzer

Having a healthy diet means consuming a wide variety of nutritious foods every day, including:

  • fruit (two serves per day)
  • vegetables (five serves)
  • wholegrains
  • nuts
  • legumes
  • oily fish
  • dairy products
  • small quantities of meat
  • small quantities of olive oil
  • water.

This way of eating is common in Mediterranean countries, where people have been identified as having lower rates of cognitive decline, depression and dementia.

In Japan, a diet low in processed foods and high in fresh fruit, vegetables, green tea and soy products is recognised for its protective role in mental health.

How does healthy food help?

A healthy diet is naturally high in five food types that boost our mental health in different ways:

Complex carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains help fuel our brain cells. Complex carbohydrates release glucose slowly into our system, unlike simple carbohydrates (found in sugary snacks and drinks), which create energy highs and lows throughout the day. These peaks and troughs decrease feelings of happiness and negatively affect our psychological well-being.

Antioxidants in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables scavenge free radicals, eliminate oxidative stress and decrease inflammation in the brain. This in turn increases the feelgood chemicals in the brain that elevate our mood.

Omega 3 found in oily fish and B vitamins found in some vegetables increase the production of the brain’s happiness chemicals and have been known to protect against both dementia and depression.

Salmon is an excellent source of omega 3. Caroline Attwood

Pro and prebiotics found in yoghurt, cheese and fermented products boost the millions of bacteria living in our gut. These bacteria produce chemical messengers from the gut to the brain that influence our emotions and reactions to stressful situations.

Research suggests pro- and prebiotics could work on the same neurological pathways that antidepressants do, thereby decreasing depressed and anxious states and elevating happy emotions.

What happens when you switch to a healthy diet?

An Australian research team recently undertook the first randomised control trial studying 56 individuals with depression.

Over a 12-week period, 31 participants were given nutritional consulting sessions and asked to change from their unhealthy diets to a healthy diet. The other 25 attended social support sessions and continued their usual eating patterns.

The participants continued their existing antidepressant and talking therapies during the trial.

At the end of the trial, the depressive symptoms of the group that maintained a healthier diet significantly improved. Some 32% of participants had scores so low they no longer met the criteria for depression, compared with 8% of the control group.

The trial was replicated by another research team, which found similar results, and supported by a recent review of all studies on dietary patterns and depression. The review found that across 41 studies, people who stuck to a healthy diet had a 24-35% lower risk of depressive symptoms than those who ate more unhealthy foods.

These findings suggest improving your diet could be a cost-effective complementary treatment for depression and could reduce your risk of developing a mental illness.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #AustraliaDay2019 or #InvasionDay1788 Debate : With Editorial from PM @ScottMorrisonMP, Jeff Kennett and Marion Scrymgour : On #SurvivalDay 2019 we recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

” Yesterday 25 January my family and I spent time with the Ngunnawal people — the first inhabitants of the Canberra region. We attended a smoking ceremony, an ancient cleansing ritual, in what I believe should become a prime ministerial tradition on the eve of Australia Day.

The timing, ahead of our national day, is entirely appropriate because the sacred custodianship of our indigenous people marked the first chapter in the story of our country.

Our First Australians walked here long before anyone else, loving and caring for these lands and waters. They still do. We honour their resilience and stewardship across 60,000 years. We pay respect to the world’s oldest continuous culture.

A culture that is alive; a culture that has survived. A culture that speaks to us no matter what our background as Australians because it is part of the living, breathing soul of our land.

Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister of Australia see full Text Published 26 January 2019 The Australian see Part 1 Below 

Watch video

 Minnie Tompkins ochreing the PM’s two Daughters at the event : Copyright Billy T.Tompkins

” We cannot celebrate 26 January when our children still face the devastating impacts of colonisation. Instead, on Survival Day we recognise the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

If we are to celebrate the many great things about our nation, we need a new date that is inclusive of all Australians and ensures we can all participate in celebrations together.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 26 January and the colonisation of Australia is a reflection of the ongoing discrimination and violation of human rights that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children face today.”

SNAICC Press Release 26 January 2019 

It was with profound sadness that I read two stories in The Australian this week: first was the front-page piece “Conservative MPs push to protect January 26”, published on Thursday, and then yesterday, “Dutton puts pressure on PM with support for Australia Day law”. This second story was accompanied by a report on an “invasion day” rally planned for the steps of Parliament House today.

In my column in Melbourne’s Herald Sun this week, I presented the case for changing the date from January 26.

I am the first to admit the issue of the date on which we celebrate Australia Day is not the top priority for Australians. Nor is the recalibration of the way in which Australia recognises its First Peoples. But changing the date is a start in building the recognition and trust I believe is necessary in an educated country

Stop this insult to our First Peoples in the Australian 26 January 2019

Jeff Kennett was the Liberal premier of Victoria, 1992-99 see Part 2 Below

” How can Australia possibly persist in celebrating as its national day the colonial acts of a foreign country? Without even touching on the sensitivities of Indigenous people, where does that leave the majority of Australians who came to or are descended from people who came to this country since Federation (including exponentially increasing numbers of Asian Australians)?

And finally, just to return to the issue of the stake of Indigenous people in this nation. Some have suggested that because there are pressing and immediate issues which are undermining our prospects for progress and wellbeing, it is inappropriate to spend time and energy participating in the debate about our national day.

Like many others who are committed to tackling domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment amongst our people, I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.” 

Marion Scrymgour is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Tiwi Islands Regional Council. Prior to this she was the Chief Executive Officer of the Wurli-Wurliinjang Health Service and was Chair of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the Northern Territory.

Part 4 Invasion Day rally 2019: where to find marches and protests across Australia

Part 1 January 26, 1788 marked the birth of today’s modern Australia Scott Morrison

Today we also remember the second chapter of our country’s history that began on January 26, 1788, with the arrival of the First Fleet.

Wooden convict ships came carrying men and women who were sick, poor and destitute. Those men and women, who included my own ancestors, persevered, endured and won their freedom. They braved hardship and built lives and families. Indeed, the wonder of our country is that out of such hardship would emerge a nation as decent, as fair and as prosperous as ours.

For along with the cruelties of empire came the ideas of the Enlightenment, and Australia was the great project. Notions of liberty, enterprise and human dignity became the foundation for modern Australia.

And we embrace, too, all those who’ve come since — to make us the happy, thriving, multicultural democracy that we are. That’s the third chapter of our story: the one we’re still writing.

Across Australia, 16,212 men, women and children will become citizens today in more than 365 ceremonies. They will be endowed with the same rights, opportunities and responsibilities as every other Australian. Australia’s great bounty is that she is now made up of people from every nation on earth. Together, all these chapters make us who we are.

They’re not unblemished. We don’t have a perfect history. We’ve made mistakes, but no nation is perfect. But we have so much to be grateful for and so much to be proud of.

We’re a free nation, with an elected parliament, an independent judiciary and a free press. We believe in the equality of men and women — of all citizens no matter their creed, race, sexuality or gender. We’ve worked to create a nation that is harmonious, prosperous and safe — one where every individual matters.

That’s what today is about. Gratitude for all we have. Pride in who we’ve become together.

Australia Day is the day we come together. It’s the day we celebrate all Australians, all their stories, all their journeys. And we do this on January 26 because this is the day that Australia changed — forever — and set us on the course of the modern Australia we are today.

Our nation’s story is of a good-hearted and fair people always striving to be better. We have a go. We take risks. Occasionally we fall flat on our faces. But we get up. We always get up. After all, we know how to have a laugh. And we know how to help how mates when they’re down. Today we remember our history, we celebrate our achievements and we re-dedicate ourselves to the land and the people we love.

Happy Australia Day.

Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister of Australia.

Part 2  Stop this insult to our First Peoples

It was with profound sadness that I read two stories in The Australian this week: first was the front-page piece “Conservative MPs push to protect January 26”, published on Thursday, and then yesterday, “Dutton puts pressure on PM with support for Australia Day law”. This second story was accompanied by a report on an “invasion day” rally planned for the steps of Parliament House today.

In my column in Melbourne’s Herald Sun this week, I presented the case for changing the date from January 26.

I am the first to admit the issue of the date on which we celebrate Australia Day is not the top priority for Australians. Nor is the recalibration of the way in which Australia recognises its First Peoples. But changing the date is a start in building the recognition and trust I believe is necessary in an educated country.

Let me start with the claims of “invasion day”. This is a term used by some in the indigenous community and by activists. It has gathered some mileage because its use has not been challenged regularly.

Australia was not invaded in 1788, it was settled. The country was occupied by a people from a different community and race to those who were already here, spread in tribes throughout the land.

As those settlers spread from Sydney Cove, the First Peoples were dispossessed of their lands and, yes, as that happened atrocities were committed.

Commodore Arthur Phillip did not arrive with a military force when he settled Port Jackson in 1788. There was no intent to wage a war against the local inhabitants. In fact, the opposite was true. Phillip was commissioned to work with the inhabitants of the country. Although that did not occur, nor did an invasion.

Let me turn to those so-called conservatives mentioned earlier. Probably the closest political grouping we have in Australia that claims to be conservative is the Nationals. Members of the Liberal Party are part of a broader church that I had always taken to mean economically conservative and socially generous.

Together in government the parties and their members discuss and find consensus on issues through policy development.

It is inconceivable to me that these so-called conservatives cannot see how celebrating Australia Day on January 26 every year reinforces a sense of loss among our First Peoples.

How can they not understand that passing legislation to enshrine January 26 as Australia Day would insult our First Peoples and defer any real hope of building the recognition they deserve?

Their action in pursuing such legislation indicates yet again how out of touch and inflexible some members of parliament have become. This is in the face of the demonstrated generosity of the community on social issues such as same-sex marriage and recognition of the challenges facing our disabled and their carers.

Why can’t they see that the same social generosity should be extended to our First Peoples?

Why do they argue that we should continue to discriminate against an important section of our community who are offended by January 26 as the date of national celebration?

The only reason these so-called conservatives are doing so is because some polls suggested that 75 per cent of Australians support January 26 as the day for the celebration.

This reasoning simply continues the cowardice of so many of our federal politicians over the past two decades.

They are elected to lead. Make bold decisions. Correct areas that cause pain to the community when bold action can easily resolve such pain.

Some in the community argue the government is not conservative enough. I disagree. The issues that were relevant in the 1960s and 70s have evolved through education and extraordinary advances in technology. There is a growing recognition of individual rights.

While I respect the right of all individuals in a broad church to hold differing views, I reserve the right to disagree with them, as I do on this issue. It is in my opinion a myopic view, outdated and based on wrong motives.

I will be interested in see which conservatives put their names to any motion to put back any real advance in the recognition of our First Peoples.

As for Peter Dutton. Leader of the band? Jumping on the so-called conservative bandwagon? He has already done considerable damage to his political reputation and must accept much of the blame for the position of the government, having been instigator of the events that led to the removal of Malcolm Turnbull.

Leadership is what is required, Peter, not weakness. Leadership is what the community respects.

By the way, happy Australia Day to all. I hope today provides an opportunity for people, including politicians, to reconsider their position so that we can continue to build the respect we should be showing to our First Peoples.

Part 3 Let’s park the issues relating to Aboriginal people to one side and look at what the 26th of January represents and symbolises for Australians generally, and at how patently incompatible with our modern national identity it is as a selected national day.

Marion Scrymgour first published 2018

The debate about whether Australia Day should be changed to a date other than the 26th of January has in recent times been focussed on the offensiveness to many Indigenous Australians of using the commemoration of the establishment of an English colony in New South Wales as the foundation narrative of our national identity. The objection articulated by advocates for change is that it ignores, marginalises or diminishes Indigenous history and culture, and fails to acknowledge past injustices (some still unresolved).

Personally I think the objection is valid, but I accept that there are differing views. However, it is not necessary to even get into that argument to be persuaded conclusively that there should be a change of date. Let’s park the issues relating to Aboriginal people to one side and look at what the 26th of January represents and symbolises for Australians generally, and at how patently incompatible with our modern national identity it is as a selected national day.

The 26th of January marks the beginning of what sort of enterprise? What sort of uplifting and inspirational human endeavour? The answer is that it was a penal settlement. A remote punishment farm to warehouse the overflow from Britain’s prisons. A place of brutality and despair conceived out of a desire to keep a problem out of sight and out of mind.

Modern Australia has its flaws. Some may want to argue the toss over Don Dale or Manus Island, but the reality is that we are a civilised, enlightened and fair people. We embrace those values in ourselves and in each other. We all recognise how lucky we are to live in a tolerant society where diversity and difference are accepted and mateship and hard work are encouraged. We cherish our autonomy and freedom. A national day should resonate with and reflect those values. The way it can do that is by reminding us of something in our past which either brought out the best in our national character, or else represented a step along the path to our unique Australian identity.

Potential examples are many, but might include these: Kokoda; the first Snowy River hydro scheme (with its harnessing of migrant workers from all over Europe coming to seek a better life after the second world war); the abolition of the white Australia policy in 1966; the passage of the Australia Act in 1986 (when Australia’s court system finally became fully independent).

One thing I know for sure is that when we look into history’s mirror for some event or occasion that allows us to see ourselves as we aspire to be, the last and most alien screen we would contemplate downloading and sharing as emblematic of ourselves as Australians would be Sydney Cove in 1788. You just have to pause and think about it for a moment to be able to reject the concept as ludicrous. And yet that is the status quo that has become entrenched in our national calendar, through a process which has been more recent and less considered than most would be aware of.

In my view it is a matter of historical logic that Australia’s national day cannot be one which commemorates something which happened before Australia itself was created. That happened in 1901 when the various colonies joined together in a single federation in which each of them was transformed into an entity called a “state”.

The new Australian states were modelling themselves on the American colonies which had joined together to become the United States of America. Many of those colonies already had a long prior history since they had been established by European settlers and in most cases they were much prouder of their origins than those new Australian states which had started off as penal settlements. But if anyone, then or since, had proposed that the national day for the USA should be some day commemorating the early history of some individual colony, they would have been howled down by Americans. The American national day celebrates the independence of the unified whole, not a way-station in the history of a pre-independence colony. It should be the same with us.

If any recent event should have served to underscore the lack of fit between the date on which our national day is currently celebrated and our contemporary political reality it is the disqualifying of Federal Parliamentarians who have belatedly discovered that they are British citizens.

Just think about that for a moment. The colony of New South Wales was established on behalf of the British Crown. Then when the country called Australia was created in 1901, its people were classed as British subjects. Stand-alone citizenship came later and things have been slowly and fundamentally changing. In 2018 Britain is a foreign country and if you are a citizen of that country you are excluded from being elected to our Australian parliament. That is because it is recognised that there are conflicting interests and allegiances.

How can Australia possibly persist in celebrating as its national day the colonial acts of a foreign country? Without even touching on the sensitivities of Indigenous people, where does that leave the majority of Australians who came to or are descended from people who came to this country since Federation (including exponentially increasing numbers of Asian Australians)?

And finally, just to return to the issue of the stake of Indigenous people in this nation. Some have suggested that because there are pressing and immediate issues which are undermining our prospects for progress and wellbeing, it is inappropriate to spend time and energy participating in the debate about our national day. Like many others who are committed to tackling domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and unemployment amongst our people, I believe we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Marion Scrymgour

 

NACCHO Aboriginal #MentalHealth and #SuicidePrevention : @ozprodcom issues paper on #MentalHealth in Australia is now available. It asks a range of questions which they seek information and feedback on. Submissions or comments are due by Friday 5 April.

 ” Many Australians experience difficulties with their mental health. Mental illness is the single largest contributor to years lived in ill-health and is the third largest contributor (after cancer and cardiovascular conditions) to a reduction in the total years of healthy life for Australians (AIHW 2016).

Almost half of all Australian adults have met the diagnostic criteria for an anxiety, mood or substance use disorder at some point in their lives, and around 20% will meet the criteria in a given year (ABS 2008). This is similar to the average experience of developed countries (OECD 2012, 2014).”

Download the PC issues paper HERE mental-health-issues

See Productivity Commission Website for More info 

“Clearly Australia’s mental health system is failing Aboriginal people, with Aboriginal communities devastated by high rates of suicide and poorer mental health outcomes. Poor mental health in Aboriginal communities often stems from historic dispossession, racism and a poor sense of connection to self and community. 

It is compounded by people’s lack of access to meaningful and ongoing education and employment. Drug and alcohol related conditions are also commonly identified in persons with poor mental health.

NACCHO Chairperson, Matthew Cooke 2015 Read in full Here 

Read over 200 Aboriginal Mental Health Suicide Prevention articles published by NACCHO over the past 7 years 

Despite a plethora of past reviews and inquiries into mental health in Australia, and positive reforms in services and their delivery, many people are still not getting the support they need to maintain good mental health or recover from episodes of mental ill‑health. Mental health in Australia is characterised by:

  • more than 3 100 deaths from suicide in 2017, an average of almost 9 deaths per day, and a suicide rate for Indigenous Australians that is much higher than for other Australians (ABS 2018)
  • for those living with a mental illness, lower average life expectancy than the general population with significant comorbidity issues — most early deaths of psychiatric patients are due to physical health conditions
  • gaps in services and supports for particular demographic groups, such as youth, elderly people in aged care facilities, Indigenous Australians, individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds, and carers of people with a mental illness
  • a lack of continuity in care across services and for those with episodic conditions who may need services and supports on an irregular or non-continuous basis
  • a variety of programs and supports that have been successfully trialled or undertaken for small populations but have been discontinued or proved difficult to scale up for broader benefits
  • significant stigma and discrimination around mental ill-health, particularly compared with physical illness.

The Productivity Commission has been asked to undertake an inquiry into the role of mental health in supporting social and economic participation, and enhancing productivity and economic growth (these terms are defined, for the purpose of this inquiry, in box 1).

By examining mental health from a participation and contribution perspective, this inquiry will essentially be asking how people can be enabled to reach their potential in life, have purpose and meaning, and contribute to the lives of others. That is good for individuals and for the whole community.

Background

In 2014-15, four million Australians reported having experienced a common mental disorder.

Mental health is a key driver of economic participation and productivity in Australia, and hence has the potential to impact incomes and living standards and social engagement and connectedness. Improved population mental health could also help to reduce costs to the economy over the long term.

Australian governments devote significant resources to promoting the best possible mental health and wellbeing outcomes. This includes the delivery of acute, recovery and rehabilitation health services, trauma informed care, preventative and early intervention programs, funding non-government organisations and privately delivered services, and providing income support, education, employment, housing and justice. It is important that policy settings are sustainable, efficient and effective in achieving their goals.

Employers, not-for-profit organisations and carers also play key roles in the mental health of Australians. Many businesses are developing initiatives to support and maintain positive mental health outcomes for their employees as well as helping employees with mental illhealth continue to participate in, or return to, work.

Scope of the inquiry

The Commission should consider the role of mental health in supporting economic participation, enhancing productivity and economic growth. It should make recommendations, as necessary, to improve population mental health, so as to realise economic and social participation and productivity benefits over the long term.

Without limiting related matters on which the Commission may report, the Commission should:

  • examine the effect of supporting mental health on economic and social participation, productivity and the Australian economy;
  • examine how sectors beyond health, including education, employment, social services, housing and justice, can contribute to improving mental health and economic participation and productivity;
  • examine the effectiveness of current programs and Initiatives across all jurisdictions to improve mental health, suicide prevention and participation, including by governments, employers and professional groups;
  • assess whether the current investment in mental health is delivering value for money and the best outcomes for individuals, their families, society and the economy;
  • draw on domestic and international policies and experience, where appropriate; and
  • develop a framework to measure and report the outcomes of mental health policies and investment on participation, productivity and economic growth over the long term.

The Commission should have regard to recent and current reviews, including the 2014 Review of National Mental Health Programmes and Services undertaken by the National Mental Health Commission and the Commission’s reviews into disability services and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The Issues Paper
The Commission has released this issues paper to assist individuals and organisations to participate in the inquiry. It contains and outlines:

  • the scope of the inquiry
  • matters about which we are seeking comment and information
  • how to share your views on the terms of reference and the matters raised.

Participants should not feel that they are restricted to comment only on matters raised in the issues paper. We want to receive information and comment on any issues that participants consider relevant to the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Key inquiry dates

Receipt of terms of reference 23 November 2018
Initial consultations November 2018 to April 2019
Initial submissions due 5 April 2019
Release of draft report Timing to be advised
Post draft report public hearings Timing to be advised
Submissions on the draft report due Timing to be advised
Consultations on the draft report November 2019 to February 2020
Final report to Government 23 May 2020

Submissions and brief comments can be lodged

Online (preferred): https://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/mental-health/submissions
By post: Mental Health Inquiry
Productivity Commission
GPO Box 1428, Canberra City, ACT 2601

Contacts

Inquiry matters: Tracey Horsfall Ph: 02 6240 3261
Freecall number: Ph: 1800 020 083
Website: http://www.pc.gov.au/mental-health

Subscribe for inquiry updates

To receive emails updating you on the inquiry consultations and releases, subscribe to the inquiry at: http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/current/mentalhealth/subscribe

 

 Definition of key terms
Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.

Mental illness or mental disorder is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves and interacts with other people. It is diagnosed according to standardised criteria.

Mental health problem refers to some combination of diminished cognitive, emotional, behavioural and social abilities, but not to the extent of meeting the criteria for a mental illness/disorder.

Mental ill-health refers to diminished mental health from either a mental illness/disorder or a mental health problem.

Social and economic participation refers to a range of ways in which people contribute to and have the resources, opportunities and capability to learn, work, engage with and have a voice in the community. Social participation can include social engagement, participation in decision making, volunteering, and working with community organisations. Economic participation can include paid employment (including self-employment), training and education.

Productivity measures how much people produce from a given amount of effort and resources. The greater their productivity, the higher their incomes and living standards will tend to be.

Economic growth is an increase in the total value of goods and services produced in an economy. This can be achieved, for example, by raising workforce participation and/or productivity.

Sources: AIHW (2018b); DOHA (2013); Gordon et al. (2015); PC (2013, 2016, 2017c); SCRGSP (2018); WHO (2001).

An improvement in an individual’s mental health can provide flow-on benefits in terms of increased social and economic participation, engagement and connectedness, and productivity in employment (figure 1).

This can in turn enhance the wellbeing of the wider community, including through more rewarding relationships for family and friends; a lower burden on informal carers; a greater contribution to society through volunteering and working in community groups; increased output for the community from a more productive workforce; and an associated expansion in national income and living standards. These raise the capacity of the community to invest in interventions to improve mental health, thereby completing a positive reinforcing loop.

The inquiry’s terms of reference (provided at the front of this paper) were developed by the Australian Government in consultation with State and Territory Governments. The terms of reference ask the Commission to make recommendations to improve population mental health so as to realise higher social and economic participation and contribution benefits over the long term.

Assessing the consequences of mental ill-health

The costs of mental ill-health for both individuals and the wider community will be assessed, as well as how these costs could be reduced through changes to the way governments and others deliver programs and supports to facilitate good mental health.

The Commission will consider the types of costs summarised in figure 4. These will be assessed through a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis, drawing on available data and cost estimates, and consultations with inquiry participants and topic experts. We welcome the views of inquiry participants on other costs that we should take into account.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #SuicidePrevention Crisis : Five Indigenous teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age have taken their own lives in the past few days. Comments from @TracyWesterman @joewilliams_tew @cultureislife @GerryGeorgatos

 

” Five indigenous teenage girls between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age have taken their own lives in the past nine days.

The most recent loss was of a 12-year-old Adelaide girl who died last Friday.

Three of the other cases occurred in Western Australia and one was in Queensland.

The spate of deaths, first reported by The Australian, is believed to have began on January 3, when a 15-year-old girl from Western Australia died in Townsville Hospital from injuries caused by self-harm. She had been visiting relatives in the beachside town.

A 12-year-old girl took her own life in South Headland, a mining town in WA, the next day.

On January 6, a 14-year-old also took her own life in Warnum, an Aboriginal community in the Kimberley.

Another 15-year-old indigenous girl is believed to have taken her own life in Perth’s south last Thursday, according to The Australian.

A 12-year-old boy is also on life support after what is believed to have been a suicide attempt. He remains in Brisbane Hospital where he was flown for treatment from Roma on Monday.

From news.com.au see Part 1 Below

Graphic above NITV see Part 3 article below

– Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or NACCHO find an Aboriginal Medical Service here.

There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe.

Read over 128 Aboriginal Health and Suicide Prevention articles published by NACCHO over past 7 years 

We have enormous amounts of funding injected into this critical area; yet, suicides continue to escalate. Our Indigenous youth are dying by suicide at EIGHT times the rate of non-Indigenous children and it is only right that we ask why this level of funding has had little to no impact.

There are actually two tragedies here; the continued loss of the beautiful young lives through suicide, and secondly, that all efforts to fund an adequate response capable of applying the science of what prevents suicide have failed.

I am as concerned that the primary focus is on encouraging people to simply ‘talk’ about suicide without the clinical and cultural best practice programs and therapies available to respond to this awareness raising, particularly in our remote areas.

Wasted opportunities for prevention are like an endless cycle in which money is thrown at band aid, crisis driven, reactive and ill-informed responses that disappear as fast as the latest headlines.

It is time to start demanding evidence of what works when we look at funded programs. Until we can get these answers, rates will continue to escalate.” 

Dr Tracy Westerman is a proud Njamal woman from the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology).

WEBSITE 

She is a recognised world leader in Aboriginal mental health, cultural competency and suicide prevention achieving national and international recognition for her work. This is despite coming from a background of disadvantage and one in which she had to undertake most of her tertiary entrance subjects by Distance Education. 2018 Western Australian of the Year

See Part 2 Below

” When a Suicide occurs; we are constantly telling people to ‘speak up’ when they aren’t well – it’s very easy to say that to people, but when you are hurting mentally, you can’t speak up, you don’t tell people yr not well and you pretend everything is ok whilst slowly dying inside!!

What’s stopping you from reaching in to help??

Don’t wait for people to speak up; start paying more attention to others; watch their behaviours, listen to how they respond.

If every person in the world pays attention to those close; family, kids, relatives, friends, work colleagues, team mates – then every person will be able to notice when someone isn’t well.

If we are not noticing, then I’m sorry, but we are not paying enough attention.

We are losing too many lives, every statistic is a person – don’t wait for others to reach out; reach in and help them when they feel silenced and it’s too hard for them to talk!!!

It starts with us – are we paying enough attention?

Joe Williams : Although forging a successful professional sporting career, Joe battled the majority of his life with suicidal ideation and Bi Polar Disorder. After a suicide attempt in 2012, Joe felt his purpose was to help people who struggle with mental illness. Joe is also an author having contributed to the book Transformation; Turning Tragedy Into Triumph & his very own autobiography titled Defying The Enemy Within – available in the shop section of this site.

Website 

In 2017 Joe was named as finalist in the National Indigenous Human Rights Awards for his work with suicide prevention and fighting for equality for Australia’s First Nations people and in 2018 Joe was conferred the highest honour of Australia’s most eminent Suicide Prevention organisation, Suicide Prevention Australia’s LiFE Award for his outstanding work in communities across Australia.

 “How can a child of 10 feel such ­despair that she would end her life? What must she have seen, heard and felt in such a short life to ­destroy all hope? What had she lived? How do her parents, her siblings, their communities live with the pain? How can they possibly endure the all-consuming grief of losing their child?

Now imagine if this were your child, your family, your close-knit community. Wouldn’t there be outrage, a wailing from the heart of overwhelming grief?

This is what is happening to ­indigenous children and young people in our country.”

See Part 4 Below : Love and hope can save young Aborigines in despair 

Published The Australian 17 January 

Download Press Release : culture is life press release 17 jan

Part 1 : Five indigenous girls take their own lives in nine-day period

“Suicides are predominantly borne of poverty and disparities,” said Gerry Georgatos, who heads up the federal government’s indigenous critical response team.

Writing in The Guardian, he described rural communities as being disparate from the rest of Australian society, where high incarceration rates infect communities, few complete schooling, employment is scant and “all hope is extinguished”.

He also said sexual abuse and self harm played a role in the suicides, with the recent spate taking the lives of young girls being “notable”.

The West Australian Government has advised that co-ordinators have been installed in every region of the state, alongside Aboriginal mental health programs.

These programs were introduced after a 2007 inquiry into 22 suicides across the Kimberley. The inquiry found the suicide rate was not due to mental illness such as “bipolar or schizophrenia” and that Aboriginal suicide was not for the most part attributable to individual mental illness.

It noted that the suicide rate, which had “doubled in five years”, was attributable to a governmental failure to respond to many reports.

Part 2 : It is time to start demanding evidence of what works when we look at funded programs. Until we can get these answers, rates will continue to escalate.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs has recently shared that the Commonwealth Government has allocated $134M of funding into Indigenous suicide prevention. If you look at the current suicide statistics this crudely translates to $248,000 per suicide death annually – without adding State funding into the mix.

We have enormous amounts of funding injected into this critical area; yet, suicides continue to escalate. Our Indigenous youth are dying by suicide at EIGHT times the rate of non-Indigenous children and it is only right that we ask why this level of funding has had little to no impact.

I am not privy to how funding decisions are made and I have ZERO funding for my services, research or programs but the gaps are sadly too clear and have been for decades.

As a country facing this growing tragedy, we still have no nationally accepted evidence-based programs across the spectrum of early intervention and prevention activities. This needs to be our first priority.

Currently, and staggeringly, funding does not require that programs demonstrate a measurable reduction in suicide and mental health risk factors in the communities in which they are delivered. This needs to be our second priority.

What this means is that we are not accumulating data or research evidence of ‘what works’. If we don’t evaluate programs and accumulate evidence, we have no hope of informing future practice to halt the intergenerational transmission of suicide risk. This needs to be a third priority.

Additionally, we are the only Indigenous culture in the world that has a virtual absence of mental health prevalence data. Until we have a widely accepted methodology for the screening of early stages of mental ill health and suicide risk, early intervention will remain elusive; evidence based programs cannot be determined and treatment efficacy not able to be monitored. This needs to be our fourth priority.

There are actually two tragedies here; the continued loss of the beautiful young lives through suicide, and secondly, that all efforts to fund an adequate response capable of applying the science of what prevents suicide have failed.

When suicide becomes entrenched, approaches need to be long term and sustainable. Report after report has pointed to the need for ‘evidence-based approaches’ but has anyone questioned why this continues to remain elusive?

When you have spent your life’s work working in Indigenous suicide prevention and self funding evidence based research, as I have, I can also tell you that despite extensive training the complex and devastating issue of suicide prevention challenges you at every level.

It challenges your core values about the right of people to choose death over life; it stretches you therapeutically despite your training in best practice; and it terrifies you that you have missed something long after you have left your at-risk client.

The nature of suicide risk is that it changes. Being able to predict and monitor suicide risk takes years and years of clinical and cultural expertise and well-honed clinical insight and judgement. Throw culture into the mix and this becomes a rare set of skills held by few in this country. Indeed, a senate inquiry in December found that not only are services lacking in remote and rural areas of Australia, but culturally appropriate services were often not accessible.

Funding decisions that are unsupported by clinical and cultural expertise in suicide prevention must be challenged and redirected in the best way possible. Toward the evidence.

Instead we have inquiry after inquiry, consultation after consultation, statistics and mortality data quoted by media purely to satisfy the latest ‘click bait’ 24-hour news cycle headline. On top of that, there are continued calls from those who receive large amounts of funding that they need “more funding”.

I am as concerned that the primary focus is on encouraging people to simply ‘talk’ about suicide without the clinical and cultural best practice programs and therapies available to respond to this awareness raising, particularly in our remote areas.

Wasted opportunities for prevention are like an endless cycle in which money is thrown at band aid, crisis driven, reactive and ill-informed responses that disappear as fast as the latest headlines.

It is time to start demanding evidence of what works when we look at funded programs. Until we can get these answers, rates will continue to escalate.

The time is now to make these changes and ask these questions. I am up for the challenge and have spent my life building and self-funding evidence of what can work to halt these tragic rates in Aboriginal communities and amongst our people. Will the decision makers join me in finding evidence-based ways to address this or continue to throw money at approaches and programs that are simply not working?

Aboriginal people deserve better, our future generations deserve better

Part 3 NITV  Indigenous youth suicide at crisis point

Originally published HERE 

Communities and families are mourning the loss of five young Aboriginal girls who took their own lives in separate incidents in Western Australia, Townsville and Adelaide this year.

In early January, a 15-year old girl from Western Australia died two-days after self-harming on a visit to Townsville.

Last Sunday, a 12-year old girl died in the Pilbara mining town of Port Hedland, followed by a 14-year old girl in the East Kimberley community of Warmun last Monday.

Another was a 15-year-old Noongar girl from Perth who died last Thursday and a fifth was a 12-year-old girl from a town near Adelaide who died last Friday.

Another 12-year-old boy is reportedly on life support at a hospital in Brisbane after what is suspected to be an attempted suicide. He was flown from Roma to Brisbane yesterday, The Australian reports.

The Director of Suicide Prevention Australia, Vanessa Lee, is calling on the federal government to support an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention strategy tailored specifically to meet the needs of Indigenous people.

“When are we going to see change… when are we going to see a national Indigenous suicide prevention strategy supported by the COAG, delivering for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Ms Lee said.

“We need to remember that Indigenous people know the solutions. We know the answers. We didn’t write the Redfern Statement  for a joke… funding needs to be put into Indigenous organisations, into Indigenous hands.”

Aboriginal people know the answers

“We need to remember that Indigenous people know the solutions, we know the answers” – Vanessa Lee

National coordinator for the National Child Sexual Abuse Trauma Recovery Project, Gerry Georgatos, told NITV News the recently reported suicides have weighed heavily on the affected families and communities.

“These incidences… have impacted –psycho-socially– the family. Hurt them to the bone. There are no words for anyone’s loss,” he said.

“To lose a child impacts ways that no other loss does, and to lose a child is a haunting experience straight from the beginning and doesn’t go away.”

South-western Noongar woman, Grace Cockie, lost her 16-year old daughter to suicide last March in their home in Perth.

“It was a devastating experience, I don’t ever want to go through that again and I don’t want no one else to go through that,” Ms Cockie told NITV News.

“She went to school every day. She loved going to school, hanging out with her friends, playing football with her Aunties.

“Part of us is gone… No one is going to replace her,” she said.

Ms Cockie wants other parents to encourage their children to speak-out if they feel unwell and said there needs to be more mental health initiatives which offer culturally supportive help for Aboriginal youth.

“Keep an eye on them and talk to them all the time,” she said.

“There’s a lot of avenues for whitefella kids, you know, and with our Aboriginal kids they’re probably too scared… they probably think they (mental health workers) won’t help them,” she said.

The Kimberley region faces alarming suicide rates

The deaths come as WA waits on a final report from an inquest into 13 Indigenous youth suicides in the Kimberley region from 2012 to 2016.

The Kimberley region has the highest Indigenous suicide rates in Australia – not just for Aboriginal youth, but for the entire Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

The inquest by state coroner Ros Fogliani is expected to table findings early this year.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics found last month that Indigenous children aged between five and 17 died from suicide-related deaths at five times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

This rate was 10.1 deaths by suicide per 100,000 between 2013 and 2017, compared with 2 deaths by suicide per 100,000 for non-Indigenous children.

One in four people who took their own life before turning 18 were Aboriginal children.

Mr Georgatos said nine out of 10 suicides in the Kimberley region have involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A senate inquiry in December found that not only are services lacking in remote and rural areas of Australia, but culturally appropriate services were often not accessible.

The inquiry found that the lack of culturally supportive services is leaving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing mental health services at a far lower rate than non-Indigenous people.

Mr Georgatos said that services aren’t accessible to the majority of people living in the Kimberley, saying that suicide prevention has come down to community support as opposed to accessible mental health professionals.

“Many of these communities [in the Kimberley region] have no services… It is forever community buy-in to support, to have a watchful eye …, but people become exhausted,” he said.

Mr Georgatos said he believes investing in local workforces that possess local cultural knowledge and training these workers to understand intense psychosocial support for young adults is the way forward.

Poverty the ‘driver’ towards suicide

Poverty and sexual abuse in the Kimberley region may be a leading factor for youth suicide, according to Mr Georgatos.

“Nearly 100 per cent of First Nations suicides… are of people living below the poverty line,” he said.

“Crushing poverty [in Kimberley and Pilbara] is the major driver of suicidal ideation, of distorted thinking, of unhappiness, of watching the world pass one by right from the beginning of life.

“One-eighth of First Nations people living in the Kimberley live in some form of homelessness… sixty per cent live below the poverty line.”

A Medical Journal of Australia report in 2016 showed seven per cent of all people living in the Kimberley were homeless.

Last year, forty per cent of youth suicides in Australia were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

“It is a humanitarian crisis… one-third of those suicides is identified as children of sexual abuse, and we don’t have the early intervention to disable the trauma of child sexual abuse,” Mr Georgatos said.

“We don’t have the early intervention and the trauma recovery for them, we don’t have the outreaches for them but what we also don’t have is the talking up and calling out of sexual predation in communities.”

Mr Georgatos said he believes if we have education in communities about what young children should do if they were to ever be predated upon, it would reduce the child internalising their trauma which may lead to suicidal ramifications.

“What we need to do is we need to outreach more personal on the ground to outreach into these communities to support them into pathways where they can access education,” Mr Georgatos said.

“We need more psychosocial support, people just to spread the love… to keep people on a journey to a positive and strong pathway and to ordered thinking, not disordered thinking.”

“We need more psychosocial support, people just to spread the love” – Gerry Georgatos.

Government supported resources

Australian youth mental health organization, headspace, last week received a $47 million funding boost from the federal government.

Chief Executive Officer, Jason Trethowan, told SBS World News the organisation will be working closely with Indigenous communities thanks to the new funding.

“We know there are challenges around rural remoteness and often headspace hasn’t been there for them… that’s why we have a trial going on in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where there are actually headspace services without a headspace centre,” he said.

Indigenous health minister, Ken Wyatt, told NITV News the federal government will continue to invest $3.9 billion over the next three years (from 2018-22) in Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to commission regionally and culturally appropriate mental health and suicide prevention services, particularly in the Kimberley and the Pilbara regions.

Currently the key active programs in these regions include the government’s $4 million Kimberley Suicide Prevention Trial and the $2.2 million Pilbara headspace trial, which opened in April last year.

The Pilbara headspace trial was co-designed with local communities, including young people, service providers, community members and local Elders.

The Pilbara headspace team has staff located in Newman, Port Hedland and Karratha, with employees spending their time in schools, youth centres, Aboriginal Medical Services, community centres and other locations.

This allowing them to reach out to youth who may not typically engage with school or youth services, said Samara Clark, manager of headspace, Pilbara.

“It’s all about engagement first, building trust, building visibility,” she said.

“What we’re hoping for is positive help-seeking behaviour, where they feel safe and comfortable enough to come up to us,” she said.

Ms Clark encourages anyone who sees a headspace worker, who may be identified by their green t-shirts, to reach out to them for support.

“If a young person sees one of the team members around, even if a community member sees them, just go up and have a yarn … the team will talk to you then and there.”

– Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here.

There are resources for young people at Headspace Yarn Safe.

Part 4 Love and hope can save young Aborigines in despair 

Published The Australian 17 January 

How can a child of 10 feel such ­despair that she would end her life? What must she have seen, heard and felt in such a short life to ­destroy all hope? What had she lived? How do her parents, her siblings, their communities live with the pain? How can they possibly endure the all-consuming grief of losing their child?

Now imagine if this were your child, your family, your close-knit community. Wouldn’t there be outrage, a wailing from the heart of overwhelming grief?

This is what is happening to ­indigenous children and young people in our country. And to parents and communities as our young people are dragged into a vortex of suicide by despair.

In a week, five Aboriginal girls have taken their own lives — prompting a warning from one ­researcher that indigenous children and young people could soon comprise half of all youth suicides. Researcher Gerry Georgatos says poverty is a major issue in suicide among young indigenous Australians, but also that sexual predation is a factor in a third of cases. My heart breaks for these girls and their families and their unimaginable pain.

The organisation that I lead, Culture is Life, wants our country to treat this as the national emergency it is. We want every Australian to think about the devastating toll of indigenous youth suicide and to help us to stop it. Urgently.

Instead of expecting youth suicide, we must take a stand of ­defiance against it. Unfortunately, across Australia, suicide and self-harm are on the increase. This is being driven by a deep sense of hopelessness and despair, by a lack of belonging and connection, and in some cases by the abuse young people have experienced.

Indigenous young people today are living with the consequences of acts committed by other human beings in charge of policies and laws through more than two centuries of trauma and dispossession. This history haunts us. It lives within us. It’s there in our families’ experiences of stolen land, children and wages, of killings and cruelty and abuses of power. They see this history in their grandparents’ eyes, if they are still alive. They discover it in their family stories of exclusion and unfairness.

And when they, too, feel the slap and sting of racism and ignorance when it comes at them as abuse in the schoolyard, or they sense the awkwardness of others in understanding their Aboriginality, or someone’s eyes won’t meet theirs, this history becomes the present. It eats away at them — at their confidence, their self-belief and their self-love — every time they are the target of racism and discrimination or at the end of ignorance and apathy, and when they are directly affected by abuse.

The task of repair and healing requires a powerful counterforce to all that.

We can tackle this together. We can begin to repair these wounds through daily acts of love and hope in communities, schools, universities and workplaces. Daily acts that send a message to our young people that there is belonging, strength and pride in indigenous peoples and cultures.

We are asking all Australians to show our young people that there is cause for love and hope. Show them that you share a deep sense of pride in who they are, in our inspiring cultures and in our strength. Tell them they matter, by showing your pride in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Share it with #loveandhope and #cultureislife.

Because when our children have love and hope in their lives, it combats helplessness and reduces the risk of self-harm. It gives them the support and courage required to take the steps they need and want to take. And when the broader community shows our kids that they care, it deepens our connections as Australians. One of the things I love most about my people is our willingness to invite ­others to connect with us and to experience our culture. And the only reciprocal ask is to take up the invitation to connect. Once you take up the invitation, you will be an ally in rectifying some of the most haunting statistics for our country.

We know from the research, and from psychologists who work with young indigenous people, that such small gestures of affirmation can make a powerful difference to their safety. Tanja Hirvonen, an Aboriginal psychologist, says many people don’t know the power of “warm interactions and warm gestures” at just the right moment to avert disaster.

She hears time and again from young people that “there was someone there for them at a particularly tricky time in their life … a coach or a teacher or an aunt or a grandmother … someone has said something pivotal to them at a particular time. Those warm ­interactions matter.”

Culture and connection are powerful protective factors against indigenous youth suicide. That’s why the work of Aboriginal leaders across the country in ­cultural pride, revitalisation and renewal programs is so crucial. People such as Yuin elder Uncle Max Harrison, who is teaching young men the ways of the old people, their lore, their duties, their responsibilities. And, as he does so, he is building their pride, strength and resilience.

So that they walk taller, knowing who they are, that they are cared for and supported and connected to this land. It’s a model for us all to feel more connected as Australians.

We cannot fail to act when we are able to save children and young people from the agony and hopelessness and torment that leads to suicide. We can affirm them in who they are, and in so doing, we can save lives.

Belinda Duarte, a Wotjobaluk woman, is chief executive of Culture is Life.
For help: Lifeline 13 11 14, Beyondblue 1300 22 4636.