People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are a priority population for suicide prevention in Australia.
People from culturally and linguistically diverse communities can face distinct risks because of cultural stigma and taboos, combined with language barriers that can prevent help seeking and effective public health communications.
What does the evidence tell us about suicide for culturally and linguistically diverse communities?
There is a lack of reliable data on suicide and self-harm amongst culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia.
Culturally and linguistically diverse communities have diverse views of suicide and suicidal thinking, and vary in how their community, family and friends respond to suicide. Stigma can affect how suicide is reported in these communities, which can lead to some suicides being reported as unintentional or accidental deaths.
The National Suicide Prevention Taskforce engaged the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre (CIRCA) to develop a culturally and linguistically diverse lived experience report. This report speaks to the diversity and complexity of peoples’ experiences.
Each participants' lived experience varied across:
- Migration and refugee pathways
- Family structures
- Broader settlement issues.
“Coming to Australia from a refugee background there are huge expectations that life will be better and easier here. This is a myth. 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."
Factors that may increase risk of suicide
Factors that may increase the risk of suicide are complex and vary between culturally and linguistically diverse communities. For example, risk factors for refugees or asylum seekers can be very different compared to other migrants.
Risk factors include:
- Settlement issues
- Experiences of racism and discrimination
- Separation from family
- Family and relationship issues
- Intergenerational and cultural conflict within family
- Limited access to health and support services due to language or cultural barriers
- Additional pressure to financially support family overseas
- Expectations placed on children to succeed or act as interpreters i.e. power imbalance/role reversal
- Unemployment and underemployment
- Experiences of trauma.
Note: These risk factors may vary between individual experiences and cultural groups
Factors that protect against risk of suicide
Protective factors against suicide for culturally and linguistically diverse individuals include:
- Strong family and community support
- Connection with culture and faith
- Social and cultural inclusion
- Educational attainment
- Stable and meaningful employment
- Access to culturally appropriate and trauma-informed health care services.
What does this mean for policy and practice?
Suicide prevention policies and practices need to support culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
Risk and protective factors differ across culturally and linguistically diverse communities and across time and context. Suicide prevention policies and practices need to embrace the complex interface of culture, ethnicity, socio-economic factors, pre-migration and/or refugee experiences, settlement issues and dynamic transcultural experiences which also modify risk and protective factors.
Understanding what factors increase and protect against the risk of suicide can help to shape actions that support wellbeing and prevent suicide. Interventions that attempt to mitigate risk factors or increase protective factors can be implemented at a national or local level.
Suicide Prevention Australia have developed a policy position statement on suicide prevention in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. The statement gives commentary on:
- A whole-of-government approach
- Addressing gaps in data and research
- Improving the cultural responsiveness of the workforce
- Integrating cultural responsiveness in the planning, delivery, and evaluation of services
- Improving access to services, including the impact of stigma.
This page was developed with the support of the Transcultural Mental Health Centre.