More than 600 suicides each year in Australia are of persons born overseas. This high number of suicides accounts for nearly 26 per cent of Australian suicides. Migrants – and former refugees – face overwhelming trauma, pressures and hurdles in their new country. But the suicide numbers among those born overseas are higher among those who have come from English-speaking countries.
Australian residents who were born in New Zealand have high suicide rates, higher than the overall national suicide rate. Females from Eastern Europe have high suicide rates. However low risk immigrant groups include people originally from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. In general, suicide takes more lives around the world than all wars do. According to the World Health Organisation, there were more than 800,000 reported suicides globally. Suicide numbers are higher among western nations.
One reason which can be argued for lower suicide rates among Australian residents originally from war-torn and impoverished homelands is that for the most part they have left behind the worst of circumstances, the worst of traumas. Another reason is that the family and community units in some of the homelands migrants have come from are more close knit than in for instance western cultures and for the first generations of migrants this solidarity continues. However with the clash of cultural settings and expectations this cradle of unity confrontationally changes for the second generation. More disaggregated research is needed about second generation Australians.
Australia is one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries. Despite its cruel isolation of refugees in detention centres onshore and offshore, Australia, proportion to total population, has the world’s highest net migration rate. Nearly 28 per cent of all Australian residents were born overseas, while another 25 per cent are second generation Australians. However despite a diverse cultural Australia, our Governments and the nation’s boardrooms do not reflect the demography of this nation. Ninety per cent of our parliamentarians are Anglophiles, with 90 per cent of them with more than 100 years of familial history on the continent. Policy making remains in their hands rather than in the hands of a culturally diversified Australia. In a sense, as with obviously the many of the descendants of the First Peoples of this continent, the majority of first and second generation Australians sense themselves as hostages to a strict social order. Assimilation is the only course, and for first and second generations it can be tough going, indeed with a price paid in regards to one’s mental wellbeing. Australia presents a publicly hostile denial of its veils and layers of racism.
Despite the horrific apartheid inflicted on the nation’s First Peoples and despite the White Australia Policy, despite various ongoing xenophobia Australia has got away as a relative socially cohesive nation. But racial tensions are not on the decrease, they are on the rise. Underclasses of racialised poverty are increasing. We are not carrying all our people together in cultural appreciations of one another, in terms of our common humanity. Australia still has a cruel bent for assimilation and does not respect unfolding, which is realised over generations, one, two and three. Race, racialism and racism are becoming more of an issue in Australia than have for several decades. This has less to do with net migration of culturally diverse peoples and more to do with a fixation with a historical self that should not dominate the contemporary but does, with poor policy making, with exclusion, and with subsequent reductionist discourse which inherently the mainstream media disseminates.
In 2015, we find ourselves without a clear picture, only snapshots, of the mental health of immigrant and refugee communities in Australia. We need to diversify and disaggregate our research. We need to pay respect to the fact that this is a culturally diverse nation. The future of any legitimate, moral social cohesion rests on this. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, nearly 60 per cent of immigrants to Australia between 2000 to 2010, were from Asia, the Middle East and north Africa.
There should be fewer questions about how to manage such diversity and rather more questions about how to understand and respect one another. Acceptance is a human imperative and a psychosocial determinant to good health and social cohesion. Diogenes got it right, in that we are all citizens of the world.