Fight to prevent suicide

ABORIGINAL youth outreach worker Darryl Bellotti has welcomed the State Government�s plan to halve suicides and suicide attempts in WA over the coming decade, but says any new initiative will only work if the culture is fully understood.

The State Government has committed $26 million over four years to support its Suicide Prevention 2020 strategy, which Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said would target key action areas to reduce suicide risk across all stages of a person�s life.

�It recognises that the biggest risk factor for suicide and self-harm is having a mental illness and a previous suicide attempt,� she said.

�We also know that young people, Aboriginal people and people who use alcohol or other drugs are at greater risk of suicide than the general population.�

On average one person dies by suicide each day in WA. The suicide rate for West Australian Aborigines is almost three times the non-Aboriginal rate, while Aboriginal people aged between 15 and 24 years are fives times as likely to intentionally self harm.

Mr Bellotti said any form of action was a good idea because �every life is equally important�.

�But there needs to be a fundamental understanding of the cultural complexities regarding the issue of suicide and the way Aboriginal people today are affected by issues � of trauma suffered by families and individuals over a long period of time before any such policy can really affect change,� he said.

Mr Bellotti said there was often a focus on specific issues, but less of a spotlight on the cause of them.

�The subculture of suicide stems from the helplessness experienced by a people who have been oppressed for a very long time,� he said.

�Without such understanding, Government policy can be viewed as just another set of directives for Aboriginal people to be confined by.

�I think a greater emphasis needs to be placed on the historical reasons behind such drastic action young people � and older people � are taking.

�Understand the culture, family structure and how knowledge and wisdom is passed down and you will find the key for affecting change.�

City of Cockburn youth services manager Michelle Champion said any new plan would take time to implement.

�A whole of community approach is required, as well as trained compassionate staff in support services who are able to develop rapport and a deep sense of trust with the young person,� she said.

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