Suicidal behaviours include:
Attempted suicide and suicide ideation are much more common than suicide.
Suicidal behaviour can be different in different cultures, so it is important to consider a person’s spiritual and cultural background. For each Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community, there may be unique or specific behaviours that are warning signs for suicidal behaviour.
It is not always easy to tell when someone is feeling suicidal and the warning signs may not be very clear. The following signs may help you to decide if a person is suicidal:
Difficult events or situations in a person’s life may put them at risk of suicide. These can include:
Age is also a major risk factor for suicide. In the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, people under the age of 35 years are at the greatest risk of suicide.
There has been a dramatic increase in the number of suicides in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the past decade. The evidence shows that the rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is around two and a half times higher than the rate for other Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 25 – 34 years have the highest rate of suicide when compared with all other age groups.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in any form of custody (e.g., lock-up or prison) are three times more likely than other people to commit suicide.
It is extremely important to never ignore a person if they are expressing feelings of suicidal behaviour. Often the hardest, but most important thing to do, is to ask if they are thinking of taking their own life. It is also important to take the person seriously and act immediately to keep them safe. Actions for helping someone who may be at risk of suicide include:
Finally, it is important that mental health workers never promise to keep a secret about a client’s suicidal behaviour or plans, instead workers should talk to the client about who else can help.
Freeman D, Freeman B (2009) Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing fact sheet series. Campbelltown, NSW: Campbelltown Community Mental Health Service (SSWAHS)
Lifeline Australia (2009) Aboriginal suicide prevention information. Wollongong, NSW: Lifeline Australia Inc
Mendoza J, Rosenberg S (2010) Suicide and suicide prevention in Australia: breaking the silence. Moffat Beach, Qld: ConNetica Consulting
Mental Health First Aid Training and Research Program (2008) Suicidal thoughts and behaviours and deliberate self-injury: guidelines for providing mental health first aid to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person. Melbourne: Mental Health First Aid
Mindframe (2009) Suicide: for Indigenous media and programs. Canberra: Mindframe
Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention (2005) Aboriginal people working together to prevent suicide and self harm. Perth, WA: Ministerial Council for Suicide Prevention
Queensland Department of Communities (2008) Responding to people at risk of suicide: How can you and your organisation help? Brisbane: Queensland Department of Communities
Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2011) Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: key indicators 2011. Canberra: Productivity Commission, Australia