The We are Strong. We are Resilient. But we are Tired- Voices from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre Yarning Circles Report* was released in 2020, aiming to improve understanding around the lives of those who have contemplated suicide or died by suicide.
Compiled by The Seedling Group and The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre, in collaboration with Black Dog Institute, the report highlights the power in stories, insights and experiences being shared and voices being heard to not only inform what can be done in suicide prevention but create waterfalls and deadly ripples that have the potential to change the way that things are done.
The report includes discussions around what was happening emotionally at the crisis moment, what was happening in people’s lives leading up to that point, and what slow-burning factors were stressors long before the crisis point. It aims to strengthen peoples’ lives and help build protective factors from the traumas of being human. It also focuses on what has helped, interventions that have diverted a crisis, who has been available to help, and what their healing journey has looked like.
Recommendations of the report included the:
- Need for culturally competent and appropriate services
- Need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led suicide prevention solutions that address social and emotional wellbeing holistically
- Advocacy and integration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lived experience voices in all levels of suicide prevention
- Mandatory remuneration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lived experience contributions
- Ensuring diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lived experience voices
- The need for healing through elevation of lived experienced voices.
Throughout the discussions, those that have attempted suicide or have experienced a suicidal crisis mention that the most significant contributing factors are a mixture of mental health disorders and social and emotional wellbeing concerns. For instance, a few examples are how the effect of the Stolen Generation and children being removed, risk factors such as drugs, alcohol and chroming, loss of connection to family, kinships and community, which results in not having a connection to land, culture and country threatening identity issues played a key role in contributing to a suicide attempt or crisis. Overall, these factors lead to communities having grief and loss, trauma, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
Definition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience
Throughout 2020, the Black Dog Institute’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre engaged a wide range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lived experience representatives in a co-design process to develop a working definition of Indigenous Lived Experience. The purpose was to demonstrate how and why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lived experience of mental ill-health and suicide is unique and essential to the design and delivery of services to our communities.
A lived experience recognises the effects of ongoing negative historical impacts and or specific events on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It encompasses the cultural, spiritual, physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the individual, family or community.
People with lived or living experience of suicide are those who have experienced suicidal thoughts, survived a suicide attempt, cared for someone through a suicidal crisis, been bereaved by suicide or having a loved one who has died by suicide, acknowledging that this experience is significantly different and takes into consideration Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples ways of understanding social and emotional wellbeing.
Leilani Darwin, Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy at the Black Dog Institute, explained: “We know that services aren’t good enough and know we need to give power back to those communities who need the support. The experience of mental ill-health and suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is fundamentally different from mainstream mental ill-health and suicide definitions.”
Leilani Darwin, Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy, Black Dog Institute
“The intention is that this definition will be used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples for their own understanding, but can also be utilised in advocacy settings for service design, policy reform and research and evaluation as a call to approach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues specifically.”
Read the Voices from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre Yarning Circles Report.
*“We are Strong. We are Resilient. But we are Tired” - Voices from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre Yarning Circles Report was included as a supplementary research report prepared for the National Suicide Prevention Adviser and the National Suicide Prevention Taskforce commissioned through the National Suicide Prevention Research Fund, which is managed by Suicide Prevention Australia. More information here.