The suicide crisis among our First Nations Peoples should be this nation’s number one priority – all attention should be on this, we have children suiciding like never before, it’s our darkest tragedy. There are 170 at-risk communities without adequate funding to implement long overdue suicide prevention strategies.
Between 2007-2011, nationally there were 11,600 deaths by suicide recorded. But in confirming my own research, the Productivity Commission found the Northern Territory had a dramatically higher suicide rate than elsewhere in the nation, generally more than double with 21 deaths per 100,000.
The national rate for suicides for First Nation Peoples was 22.3 per 100,000 as compared to 10.3 per 100,000 for non-Aboriginal Australians.
WA revealed a horrific 35.9 suicide deaths per 100,000 as compared to 12.2 for non-Aboriginal West Australian, which is the biggest gap, the most disproportionate in the nation.
Between 2001 to 2011 there were a reported 996 suicides of First Nations people – which translates to 1 in 24 deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people each year, however my own research estimates it is more likely 1 in 12 to 1 in 16. Last week I reported there have been approximately 400 suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the subsequent three years, 2011 to 2013. The suicide crisis is not abating and has gotten dramatically worse. For First Nations People it has increased from 99.96 suicides each year to 130 suicides each year.
Next week, I am travelling to Sydney and Canberra hoping to meet with Government. Something needs to be done and this includes upping the ante with funding the necessary lifesaving strategies. Proportional spending has increased overall, but only marginally and hence the suicide crisis continues especially in regional communities.
The spending has been targeted to mental health whereas there may need to be target specific funding and allocations to non-mental health related suicide prevention strategies, various services funding and community-led initiatives to engage with at-risk citizens, and funding for programs to get young children on esteem building on-Country experiences.
Educative programs also need to be funded. Funding needs to be upped and disbursed equally per capita to each community, not to some communities only while others missing out altogether because funding overall is capped.
The suicide crisis can be abated but it will take visits to all communities to map this out, and this is what I will be discussing with Government.
The Productivity Commission revealed that the average Government spend on mental health has increased from $242 to $309 per person in the past seven years but most of this is indexation creep and inflation.
Mental health spending and suicide prevention spending need to be separated, for the most part they must not overlap.
Surprisingly though, the Productivity Commission revealed decreased proportional community-based services spending in the Northern Territory for 2011-12 where suicide risk is at crisis levels.
In general, for males the suicide risk is four times higher than that for females, with males over 85 years of age, six times more likely.
But the national suicide rates for First Nations Peoples is the highest it has ever been and is getting worse. The prevalence of spates of suicide, for instance in parts of the Northern Territory and in the north of Western Australia, has reached rates that have exceeded 100 times the national rate.
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