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Indigenous suicide: Finding a catalyst for action

Anthony Dillon
06 May 2021 | OP180
Indigenous suicide: Finding a catalyst for action

This paper aims to provide a catalyst for the actions needed to address the crisis of Indigenous suicide. It begins by examining a major barrier to addressing Indigenous suicide—the politicisation not only of Indigenous suicide, but all Indigenous issues—before discussing some of the likely causes of suicide, and factors that make Indigenous suicide qualitatively different from non-Indigenous suicides. It then summarises possible solutions based on this discussion.

Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found there were 27.1 Indigenous suicide deaths per 100,000 persons in 2019, compared with 12.9 non-Indigenous suicides per 100,000 people in the same time period. A reduction in the suicide rate among Indigenous Australians was included as a specific target area when the Closing the Gap initiative was updated in July 2020.

The most recent Productivity Commission report on mental health stated that “suicide is the fifth leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, compared with the twelfth for non-Indigenous people”.

A 2019 systemic review argued that the term “crisis” is appropriate, given that young Indigenous Australians not only die by suicide at significantly higher rates than their non-Indigenous peers, but also do so at an increasingly younger age, particularly in remote areas.

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