Released in April 2021, the CALD Lived Experience Final Report aimed to provide better understanding around lived experience of suicide in Australia and inform recommendations to the government.
The National Suicide Prevention Taskforce engaged The Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA) to formulate the report. Participants from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, aged between 18 and 35 years old with lived experience of suicide, but not presently experiencing a crisis, were recruited for the study.
An overarching message of the report is that there isn't one picture of CALD suicide; there are complex patterns of behaviour with multiple trajectories. Each lived experience differed with individual considerations, including age, migration and refugee pathways, relationships, family structures and broader settlement issues.
Whilst key themes from the report are summarised below, caution needs to be applied when generalising to the wider community. Notwithstanding, the life stories of individuals highlighted several reoccurring factors that were significant across participants.
For instance, early childhood trauma, relationship issues and mental health being considered taboo were consistent themes. One participant described:
“In the African refugee camp right life was really hard. The treatment was inhuman. When you are young you don’t have the necessary skills to cope. I saw no point in being alive.”
Additionally, issues around cultural differences, and experiences of racism and prejudice in Australia were also frequently reported. A man described:
“We carry with us the idea of a developed world, but the reality is you always have to prove yourself as everyone has assumptions about you because of the way you look for colour.”
Participants detailed their experiences with primary and allied health care in Australia. CIRCA notes that considering the range of services and social supports delivered from within communities, there is a void of structures or services that focus on mental health and illness.
Within existing practices, lived experience accounts described a lack of cultural competency amongst mental health professionals and primary health providers. A participant stated:
“The counselling space did not make me feel really safe enough to open up. There was no shared lived experience to make the connection.”
Whilst all participants had experienced negative interactions with health professionals or services, one participant described a positive interaction with her general practitioner:
“In 2003 I went and saw a GP who had the same cultural background as mine. He was both understanding and sympathetic to my issues and my family situation."
The themes discussed in the interviews indicate the ongoing work needed to ensure culturally and linguistically diverse communities are supported in Australia. The voices in this report are part of the 3000+ voices across Australia to form the National Suicide Prevention Adviser – Final Advice, presenting a multitude of opportunities to change.