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Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Male Suicide


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This talk was delivered by Glen Poole as part of a session on male suicide at the NACCHO Ochre Day 2017 Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Male Health Conference in Darwin, Australia (4th & 5th October).

The conference was convened by NACCHO (National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) and the conference theme was "Men's Health, Our Way, Let's Own It!"

Glen Poole is Development Officer at the Australian Men's Health Forum.

Published in: Healthcare
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Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Male Suicide

  1. 1. By Glen Poole, Development Officer, AMHF Male Suicide in Aboriginal & Torress Strait Islander Men: What Do We Know?
  2. 2. 2 We acknowledge the Larrakia people as the Traditional Owners of the Darwin region. We pay our respects to the Larrakia elders past and present.
  3. 3. 3 Men’s health, our way. Let’s own it!
  4. 4. 4 The peak body for male health in Australia focusing on the social issues that shape men and boys’ health and wellbeing. What is the Australia Men’s Health Forum?
  5. 5. 5 “Those most at risk of premature death and illness include Indigenous males, males from rural and remote areas; those with blue collar backgrounds; males with mental illness; war veterans; gay, transgender and intersex people; males with disabilities; socially isolated and non-English speaking males.” Male health in Australia, a call to action (AMHF position paper 2016) We care about men in all their diversity
  6. 6. 6 80.4 years, male life expectancy (84.5 years female life expectancy) 500 people a week die prematurely, nearly two thirds are male 1 in 4 males die before they reach 65 (and 1 in 7 females) 7 out of 10 young people who die each year are male 96% of people who die at work are men 73% of people who die in transport accidents are male 4 times more men under 65 die from heart disease than women 100 more men than women die from cancer every week Indigenous males die 10 years younger than Non- Indigenous males 4 times more research funding is given to women’s health 10 Top Male Health Issues
  7. 7. 7 6 male suicides a day and 2 female suicides a day 41% increase in male suicide (2006-2015) 2 boys and young men under 20 die by suicide each week #1 killer of men under 45 40-54 year old men record highest number of suicide 85+ men have the highest rates of suicide $6m is the estimated cost of each individual suicide $13.75B the estimated cost of male suicide per year 2x more likely to suicide if you’re ATSI male 4x more likely to attempt suicide if you’re GBTI male 10 top facts about male suicide
  8. 8. 8 At least 2 male suicides a week 2 x the Non- Indigenous rate 7 out of 10 suicides are male #1 killer under 35 Second biggest killer overall Rate for boys under 15 is 9x higher Rates over 55 lower than Non-Indigenous Men 25-34 have some of highest global rates Rates are highest in Western Australia Rates higher outside major cities 10 top facts about Indigenous male suicide
  9. 9. 9 More than 2,000 men and boys a year More than 100 Indigenous men and boys a year Suicide in Australia kills…..
  10. 10. 10 “It appears that women are more likely to benefit from all of the [suicide prevention] strategies than are men.” David Lester, Suicide In Men (2014) #SuicideStrategyFail
  11. 11. 11 3 reasons most strategies are more female friendly They primarily view suicide as a mental health issue? 01 They place more priority on spotting and helping suicidal people? 02 They place more priority on people who’ve attempted suicide? 03
  12. 12. 12 Suicides linked with a mental health diagnosis 44.4% male suicides 63.6% female suicides
  13. 13. Suicides linked with a mental health diagnosis People who die by suicide, but don’t have a mental health diagnosis, are nearly five times more likely to be male.
  14. 14. 14 Reported levels of suicidality WOMEN 42% more likely to think about suicide more likely to attempt suicide more likely to make suicide plans WOMEN 67% WOMEN 75%
  15. 15. 15 People completing suicide at first attempt 44.4% female suicides 72.3% male suicides
  16. 16. Turning our thinking outside-in The inside-out model of suicide prevention SUICIDE Acquiring the ability to suicide Becoming suicidal Having mental health issues FEELING SUICIDE PLANNING SUICIDE ATTEMPTING SUICIDE ANXIETY SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDERS DEPRESSION OTHER MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
  17. 17. Turning our thinking outside-in The outside-in model of suicide prevention SUICIDE Is suicide the solution? Can I live with my problems? Can I cope with my problems? FIXING PROBLEMS COPING WITH PROBLEMS ABILITY TO SUICIDE SOCIAL PROBLEMS BEHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS Can I fix my problems? HAVING PROBLEMS
  18. 18. Growing evidence that male suicide is often situational A recent study of male farmer suicides found that while 22% of the men in the study suffered a long-term mental illness, 78% of the suicides were associated with acute situational distress linked to relationship issues/family breakdown or a work/financial crisis. A separate study of men in Western Australia aged 65 to 85, found that around 83% of suicides in this group were not associated with a mental disorder.
  19. 19. 19 At least 2 male suicides a week 2 x the Non- Indigenous rate 7 out of 10 suicides are male #1 killer under 35 Second biggest killer overall Rate for boys under 15 is 9x higher Rates over 55 lower than Non-Indigenous Men 25-34 have highest rates globally Rates are highest in WA Rates higher in remote settings 10 top facts about Indigenous male suicide
  20. 20. 20 What the official figures on Indigenous suicide say:
  21. 21. 21 Indigenous v Non-Indigenous Suicide Rates
  22. 22. 22 Indigenous Suicide Rates by State and Territory
  23. 23. 23 Indigenous Suicide Rates by Age
  24. 24. 24 Indigenous Suicide Rates by Age
  25. 25. 25 PSYCHOLOGY Trauma Mental Health Issues Identity BEHAVIOUR/BIOLOGY Substance Abuse Self Harm Long Term Illness/Disability RELATIONSHIPS Isolation/Disconnection Loss Conflict/Abuse SOCIAL/SYSTEMIC Unemployment/Work/Money Legal Issues Discrimination/Disadvantage Four factors that increase the risk of suicide
  26. 26. 26 PSYCHOLOGY Higher incidence of: Trauma? Mental Health Issues? Identity? BEHAVIOUR/BIOLOGY Higher incidence of: Substance Abuse? Self Harm? Long Term Illness/Disability? RELATIONSHIPS Higher incidence of : Isolation? Loss ? Conflict/Abuse? SOCIAL/SYSTEMIC Higher incidence of: Unemployment/Work/Money? Legal Issues? Discrimination/Disadvantage ? Are these factors increased in Indigenous Males?
  27. 27. 27 • Colonisation • Racism • Inter-generational trauma • Stolen Generation • Loss of land • Loss of spiritual connection to country • Loss of cultural identity • Lack of appropriate education • Lack of opportunity • Lack of community-led healing programs Examples of Discrimination/Disadvantage (from “The Elders Report”)
  28. 28. 28 ATSIPEP Report
  29. 29. 29 GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS:  Build on evidence and continue to evaluate  Include community-led upstream prevention  Invest in diverting young people away from crime  Train indigenous community members in suicide prevention  Train all service providers cultural competence and trauma informed care  Develop prevention services childhood sexual abuse victims/survivors  Ensure representation of LGBTQI Indigenous people Solutions: Recommendations from ATSISPEP Report
  30. 30. 30 Community Planning:Men’s Groups must be involved (ATSIPEP)
  31. 31. 31  peer-to-peer mentoring/education and leadership on suicide prevention  counselling/safe space available for people to discuss their concerns  community site specific/using community organisations  support materials, use of DVDs with no assumption of literacy in participants  connecting with young people through sport  connecting young people to country, culture and community life  connecting young people to Elders  awareness of critical risk periods  24/7 program  community engagement/empowerment model to address negative social determinants and support social and emotional wellbeing  gatekeeper training  Postvention (supporting people after a suicide or suicide attempt) What makes a project successful?(Factors identified by ATSIPEP)
  32. 32. 32 NACCHO Blue for Aboriginal Male Health Goal Four: To prioritise specific funding to address mental health, social emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention for Aboriginal males.
  33. 33. 33 Readers Are Leaders (and Leaders Are Readers) Download this paper for free at:
  34. 34. 34 Join us in Sydney next month….. Day One: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Male Suicide seminar Day Two: Male Suicide Prevention Conference & AMHF Men’s Health Awards Day Three: Male Suicide Prevention Conference
  35. 35. 35  Suicide kills six men and two women a day  Indigenous people are twice as likely to die by suicide  70% of Indigenous suicides are male  Young Indigenous males are highest at risk group  Suicide is not just a mental health issue  We know certain situations increase men’s risk of suicide (e.g. trauma, loss, discrimination)  Indigenous males are more likely to experience these situational risk factors  Community-led programs that address these situational factors are vital to preventing suicide  Men’s groups must be involved in suicide prevention  Community leaders need training in male suicide prevention In summary
  36. 36. 36 1. How is male suicide affecting your mob? 2. What's your mob doing to help stop suicide? 3. What needs to change to stop male suicide? 4. What action can you take after today? Four questions to have a yarn about……
  37. 37. 37 Don’t be a stranger…. Glen Poole Development Officer Australian Men’s Health Forum