Indigenous leadership, Indigenous approaches will start to reduce our suicide rate

Posted 27th September 2019

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its annual Causes of Death report - widely accepted as the most accurate Indigenous suicide deaths data source. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health (NATSILMH) Chair Mr Tom Brideson commented:

The report confirms that we continue facing a growing suicide crisis in too many of our communities. Our overall suicide death rates are double that of the non-Indigenous, and our rates of under-18 years of age suicide are four times as high.  What concerns me the most is that the report identifies our men’s suicide rate continues to increase –  from 30.4 to 36.4 deaths per 100,000 over 2008-18 , while for our women it increased from 10.7 to 11.6 per 100,000.  While the overall non-Indigenous rate has also increased, it does not compare to the almost 20 per cent rise among our men over the past decade.

Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP) Director Professor Pat Dudgeon noted:

Prior to CBPASTSISP, as Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project, we reviewed and assessed program evaluations and the broader evidence base for Indigenous suicide prevention. What this information and the communities we spoke to as a part of the Project told us was that the complex problem of Indigenous suicide needed a range of Indigenous-led and developed, culturally acceptable and integrated solutions. In addition to robust clinical responses, these include evidence-based primordial prevention to address suicide risk factors including underlying trauma and social determinants. There are range of approaches that are needed to support peers, families and communities, to help people challenged by suicide; also, programs targeted at our young people, our men, our LGBTIQ, and other vulnerable groups. There is no one magic solution.

Mr Tom Brideson continued:

Indigenous leadership is key in all responses aimed at reducing the appallingly high rates of Indigenous suicide. As such I have been encouraged by the announcement of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia by Health Minister Greg Hunt earlier this month. The new body will help cement Indigenous control of responses to mental health and suicide prevention in the national policy space. In doing so it will ensure that our cultural and experiential differences are respected within a ‘best of both worlds approach’ (including cultural and clinical elements) to our wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention. And I am particularly pleased that Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia has been charged with leading the development of an Indigenous suicide prevention plan with a strong youth suicide prevention component.   
Professor Dudgeon closed:

The data released yesterday underscores calls to action made by Indigenous leaders for decades now including for greater investment in Indigenous suicide prevention. In that regard, not only are continuing and growing investments in services and programs necessary, but also in research (such as through the Million Minds Mission Research Fund) and the work of CPBATSISP. There are still evidence base gaps that we need identify and to fill. This includes examining the potential role of cultural healers and undertaking a comprehensive evaluation of psychometric and other tools to find the ones best suited to our peoples’ complex needs. My work and commitment to build the evidence base through such research is not abstract – it should result in changes and improvements to the way suicide prevention is carried out among our people and - I am confident – reduce rates of Indigenous suicide over time.

For media enquiries and interview requests for Professor Dudgeon and Mr Brideson contact Mr Christopher Holland on 0438 409 149          

For more information about CBPATSISP see

For more information about ATSISPEP see:

For more information on the appropriate reporting of mental illness and suicide see Mindframe.

Lifeline: 131 114 

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