Gerry Georgatos has been travelling the nation highlighting the extensiveness and nature of suicides among the First Peoples – and that we have to act now – Photo, Fernando M. Gonçalves
Last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were 2,620 reported deaths of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders in 2012 of which it was reported that 117 were suicides, with six yet to be classified at the time of publication. Earlier this year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported a record-high 2,811 deaths, while 138 suicides were reported.
Prior to these reports my own research had estimated that there would be at least 120 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander deaths classified suicides for 2012 and 140 suicides for 2013. From 2001 to 2010 there were 996 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander suicides – an average of 100 per year.
During this period there was an average of 2,400 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander deaths per year – therefore the average of 100 per annum over a ten year period.
I estimated that the reported death rate in the ensuing five year period would more than likely increase to 130 per year and to at least one reported suicide in every 20 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander deaths.
For related reading: NACCHO – research by Gerry Georgatos – Estimated 400 suicides in our communities
The 130 reported suicides are sadly now a fact. This tragedy need never have occurred. However it is even much worse because the reported data masks a disturbingly dark narrative. So far in this article I have written about reported suicides however because of various reporting issues and criteria there is in fact an underreporting of suicides. I estimate that the suicide rate of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, nationally, is around one suicide in 12 deaths.
Furthermore, the increasing death rate in general is masking the high suicide rate among young Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders. In the 1990s on average less than 2,000 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders died each year, whereas now with increasing impoverishment and economic inequalities in many regions the death rate has increased to more than 2,000 on average per annum and closer to around two and half thousand deaths per year – a variance of about 800 more deaths per year in the last decade compared to the mid-nineties. If we disaggregate to age categories we discover horrific narratives. If you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and aged 14 years and less, suicide is the second leading cause of death – and you are eight times more likely to die by suicide than non-Aboriginal Australians aged 14 years and less.
If you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and aged 15 to 35 years of age, suicide is the leading cause of death – 30 per cent of deaths in this vast age group are reported as suicides – therefore nearly one in three deaths in this 20 year age group are suicides. This is an abomination, indicting this nation and its governments of a humanitarian crisis it has not only failed to respond to as a pressing issue but also of perpetuating this crisis.
From 2001 to 2010, one in 20 deaths of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders was registered as suicide.
In 2012, one in 22 deaths of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders was registered as suicide.
In 2013, one in 20 deaths of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders was registered as suicide.
In 2013, 385 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander deaths were classified as external causes. Suicide took 138 lives – 99 males, 39 females but underreporting issues classified what many of us know should have been classified as suicides as other. But whether it is one in 12 or one in 20 it is a humanitarian crisis.
Suicide has many factors but for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, the major factor is the extreme poverty that many are marginalised and racialised within – and the sense of racism that comes with this. The problem is not the individual, the problem is the circumstances of the individual – this is what we need to respond to, the circumstances.
All lives matter – however what leads to the majority of suicides for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders is not the same as the factors for the majority of suicides of non-Aboriginal Australians. On average daily seven Australians will suicide. For non-Aboriginal Australian males, in 2013, the highest age-specific suicide rate was in the 85+ age group and the next highest in the 45 to 54 age group. For Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders the majority of suicides are of persons aged less than 35 years of age and a significant proportion in their 20s.
I have written this summary because as I got right the real time suicide numbers and averages and projections for 2012 and 2013, tragically I will be right again on the numbers – people dying by suicide – for 2014 and 2015 and in what lies ahead for us unless we act now and in the ways I have been describing, reporting and campaigning for.
If we do not act in the ways I, and some others, have been stating, that all of us should be stating, then it is bastardry, gutlessness, and much more than just plain wrong.
Declaration – Gerry Georgatos is a researcher in suicide prevention and racism and is involved with various national and community projects in suicide prevention.
Lifeline’s 24-hour hotline, 13 11 14
Crisis Support and Suicide Prevention Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Other articles and media on the suicide crisis and suicide prevention by Gerry Georgatos:
One in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been to jail
An eleven year old suicides – nine months later his mother takes her life
Understanding the abominable jail and suicide rates
The issue of our time – 1 in 3 deaths by suicide
When the right people lead then lives will be saved
Truth, not lies on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention rates
A moral abomination – a narrative that is racialised; of human suffering and misery
Plato said engage with our politicians or risk being governed by the dumb – the suicide crises
Stop selling resilience
Another misguided reductionist plan to reduce rates of suicide self-harm
The leading cause of death – for 15 to 44 year old Australians – is suicide | The Stringer
People strengthening people focus on suicide prevention
Understanding difference and unfairness is a first step in suicide prevention | The Stringer
Taboo, stigma and shame need to get out of the way for suicide prevention | The Stringer
Suicide is heading to a humanitarian crisis – it is a leading cause of death | The Stringer
Suicides are preventable – here is what we must begin to do | The Stringer
The extensiveness of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander suicides – 1 in 20 | The Stringer
Preventing suicide – “no greater legacy” | The Stringer
Understanding Australia’s suicide crises
Shame job Australia – they came through the gate with my boy’s body
Suicides, high among overseas born and second generation Australians
Child suicidal ideation on the increase
It is racism killing our people – suicides born of racism
Kimberley suicide rate – one of the world’s highest – Yiriman is the way to go
My Country – But look how I am forced to live
What will it take to end Aboriginal disadvantage, the inequalities and the various crises?
What sort of Australia is this? Seven homeless children in an asbestos slum
Six homeless children fighting for a better tomorrow
Quality of life for Australians 2nd only to Norway but for Aboriginal Peoples 122nd
Dumbartung convenes suicide crisis summit
Suicide attempts among women on the rise
Australia’s Aboriginal children detained at the world’s highest rates
Culture should not be denied – change needs unfolding, not impost
Everyone in the Territory doing well, except for Aboriginal Peoples
Australia’s Aboriginal children, the world’s highest suicide rate
Wes Morris slams government suicide prevention programs
How many more suicides will it take? How many more deaths?
Hopelessness in suicide riddled communities
More government neglect of Aboriginal children
In identity lay the answers – ATSI suicides
$25.4 billion spent on Aboriginal disadvantage is a lie
Beagle Bay to State Parliament – Farrer speaks out on suicides
Government to address Aboriginal suicides
996 Aboriginal deaths by suicide – another shameful Australian record
996 deaths by suicide – one in 24 die by suicide
Australia’s Aboriginal suicide epidemic – whose child will be the next to die?
77 Aboriginal suicides in South Australia alone
Kimberley’s Aboriginal peoples old at 45 years
Australia, the mother of all jailers of Aboriginal people
Close the gap failed
Despite what’s being reported, life expectancy not improving for ATSI peoples – 1 in 3 dead by 45 years of age
Tumult of death – 400 suicides in last three years
30 suicides in the last three months as we wait for promises to be kept
Suicide crisis – genocidal numbers
Suicide crisis – from tragic to catastrophic
Suicide crisis needs real funding and actions
Hundreds more will suicide if we wait for 2015
Nothing will be done about suicides crisis
Scullion bent on saving lives
Elders across Australia say governments need to listen to them on how to address youth suicide
Suicides – western society and ancient cultures clash
If we are serious about suicide prevention
Australia’s suicide crisis should not be played down – the media must highlight it
From my father’s death bed to the must-do to end the suicides
Governments promise on ending suicides must come good now
More confirmation of what everyone knows, was suicide prevention inadequate
The must-do need to listen and trust if suicides crisis is to end
Working together – mental health and suicide prevention roundtable
Break the taboo around suicides, we reduce suicides
Suicide crises born of Australia’s inhumanity
Suicides – children
Suicides crisis linked to incarceration
Wes Morris urges funding for cultural methodologies
The betrayal of our children – the Northern Territory
New project offers hope to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides
Depression and suicide prevention must be top of the agenda this century
World Suicide Prevention Day – suicide takes more lives than war
Western Australia – 1 in 13 in a jail, a bullshit state of affairs
Forgotten children of the promised land – the fight to save rural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
Yiriman saving lives in the midst of the Kimberley’s suicide crises
Healing Halls Creek
The smaller a community, the less likely a suicide
Overcoming disadvantage report shows disadvantage not overcome
600 Black deaths in custody by 2025 – jail numbers to soar
Get out of the way – Aboriginal suicide rates will drop
A nation shamed when the solution for its children is homelessness
Christmas, a period of vulnerability for many
Stop peddling lies $30 billion spent on Indigenous disadvantage is a lie
To end our trauma government must stop the assault on our people and our culture
In Australia there is the Aboriginal rights struggle
Kirstie Parker, Mick Gooda say enough of fine words – close the gap a big fat lie
Highest child removal rates in the world worse than Stolen Generations
Stop examining the oppressed – instead examine the oppressor
A humanitarian crisis
Beating back suicide
Youth suicide at crisis levels among Indigenous population
A nation shamed when child sees suicide as the solution
Families urged to look after each other as suicide rates soar
Response to rash of suicides in remote WA regions
ABC 7:30 Report – Deaths in custody and jail rates
Indigenous suicide prevention ambassador
Mother takes her own life after losing beloved son
Tiga Bayles and Gerry Georgatos discuss the suicide crises
The Wire – The suicide crisis
Unpaid fines leading Indigenous over representation
Researcher says poverty is driving incarceration of Aboriginal people
One in twenty First Peoples deaths classify as suicide
CAAMA Radio – Gerry Georgatos Speaks out on Aboriginal Suicide.
ABC – Indigenous suicide rates at crisis levels