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Governments need to critically invest in Aboriginal-led solutions to prevent further suicide and self-harm to our Communities, says the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Posted by VACCHO Communications Team on 10 September 2020

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Today marks World Suicide Prevention Day, a global day of action designed to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention.

In Victorian Aboriginal communities, VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO said the events of the 2020 bushfires and coronavirus pandemic have exacerbated the stress and poor health of many Victorian Aboriginal people.

Ms Gallagher said recent events have significantly increased social, financial, emotional, and physical pressures and stressors - including widespread grief and loss - which can compound existing unresolved trauma, discrimination, high incarceration rates, and substance abuse.

“It is an undeniably hard time for our Communities—and for all people across Victoria,” she said.

“Sadly, these risk factors are associated with increased suicide risk and suicide rates in our Communities that are twice the national average. 

“We also know that when it comes to the mental health and wellbeing of mob, it is crucial that we speak up for help without shame, support each other and listen to each other. Even during COVID-19 it is extremely important we keep up to date with accessing supports online and via telehealth. 

“VACCHO continues to be moved and inspired by the resilience and unwavering strength of Aboriginal people and organisations across Victoria, and the many ways in which Communities continue to support each other and learn from each other during this tough time.”

Aboriginal suicides are closely linked to mental health issues, with about 80 per cent of deaths linked to a diagnosed and/or a suspected mental illness.

Health statistics reveal that the rate of mental health-related emergency department presentations for Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islanders was more than four times that for other Australians (AIHW, 2020).

Worryingly, a third of Aboriginal Victorians have also been diagnosed with a mental or behaviour condition. This is nearly 1.6 times the non-Aboriginal rate. (AATSIHS 2018-19).

VACCHO recently completed its consultations with Aboriginal communities and organisations on Balit Durn Durn, a ground-breaking report developed by VACCHO to support the Royal Commission’s Final Mental Health Report. Balit Durn Durn comes from the Wurundjeri/Woiwurrung language and means strong brain, mind, intellect, and sense of self. Balit Durn Durn puts forward five Aboriginal led solutions that will transform Aboriginal social emotional and wellbeing, and will be tabled in the Victorian Parliament in February 2021. A digital launch will commence soon. 

“I’m pleased that the Victorian Government has committed to implementing recommendations outlined in the Royal Commission’s Final Mental Health Report. Many of the solutions lie in Aboriginal hands,” Ms Gallagher said. 

“It’s vital that all levels of government continue to critically invest in Aboriginal-led solutions to prevent suicide and self-harm.”

VACCHO believes that speaking up about mental health and wellbeing is an important first step to help people work towards feeling better and getting the support they needed.

“If you notice that your mental health is impacting the quality of your life, and your ability to engage in everyday activities, it is important that you reach out for help,” Ms Gallagher said.

Ms Gallagher recommended several services that offered valuable mental health support: 

  • Your local ACCO may have people such as counsellors, doctors, and psychologists available onsite who you also can talk to through phone or video (telehealth), or they may be able to refer you to someone. Community health and other GP services offer similar services. 
  • Yarning Safe ‘n’ Strong: 1800 95 95 63: A confidential telephone counselling hotline that is run by VAHS and operates 24/7.
  • Dardi Munwarro’s Brother to Brother: 1800 435 799 (men only 24/7 service).
  • Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14: A crisis support service offering short term support for people who are having difficulty coping or staying safe. 
  • Beyond Blue: 1800 512 348: Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service. 
  • Headspace: 1800 650 893: Online and webchat support and counselling for 12-25-year-olds and their family and friends.

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For media inquiries or interview requests please contact Andrew Jefferson on 0428 433 963.

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VACCHO is the leading advocate for the health of Aboriginal peoples in Victoria and a peak organisation to its membership of 32 ACCOs. VACCHO also works closely with partner organisations, Government, non-Government community sector organisations across Victoria and nationally.


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