Doing it with heart - Preventing Suicide in Aboriginal communities

(L-R): Indi Clarke, Professor Pat Dudgeon and Dr Graham Gee

Doing it with heart - Preventing Suicide in Aboriginal communities

The first statewide conversation about the difficult and complex issue of suicide prevention in Victorian Aboriginal communities was held in Melbourne on Friday 10 November.

The statewide forum brought together more than 100 people from multiple organisations to focus on preventing suicide in Victorian Aboriginal communities. People from Primary Health Networks, Aboriginal community controlled health organisations, community mental health organisations, health and community health organisations, the Department of Health and Human Services and other government departments, Victoria Police, Universities, Indigenous family violence groups, and Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing programs came to contribute to the day.

Dynamic Aboriginal actor Tammy Anderson and respected Elder Aunty Nellie Flagg led the forum and set the scene for a heartfelt and honest supported discussion. Counsellors from Yoowinna Wurnalung and Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative were on hand for support.

Evidence is growing about what works in suicide prevention. Professor Pat Dudgeon and Leilani Darwin from the Black Dog Institute spoke about the highly regarded Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) and tools. Dr Graham Gee discussed promising results of research conducted through the #HerTribe program in collaboration with Victorian Aboriginal Health Service. #HerTribe, which combines community connection, culture, physical activity and support, has been shown to reduce the psychological distress of participants and was used to roadtest the new Aboriginal resilience measure. See more about #HerTribe here

Connecting efforts between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal initiatives was an important theme for the day. Elizabeth Deveny from the South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network (PHN) highlighted the broad role of PHNs in mental health reform and alignment with suicide prevention initiatives. And Belinda Duarte from Culture is Life and Indi Clarke from Koori Youth Council delivered powerful presentations about the work of their respective organisations in building resilience through cultural factors amongst young Aboriginal people and communities.

It was clear from the floor that further conversations and work are needed. Forum outcomes are inspiring and informing work of the 12 place-based suicide prevention trial sites and implementation of Balit Murrup – Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Framework .

Thinking about developing a Aboriginal suicide prevention initiative? – check out the ATSISPEP website.

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