Self-harm and suicide

Deliberate self-harm is an immediate and intentional form of harm to ones-self [16739]. It is not intended to result in death, and it is often a repeated behaviour. It can include cutting, burning or substance use, often due to poor social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) and an inability to cope. Other terms for these kinds of behaviours include self-injury and non-suicidal behaviour.

Suicide, or suicidal behaviour, involves thoughts, threats and actions with the intent to end one’s life [16739] . Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more at risk of self-harm and suicide as they can feel alone and disconnected from their culture, land and identity [14650].

The rates and causes of suicide can vary between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations and communities due to a range of characteristics often specific to a community or region [16739][38645][41496][27487]. Risk factors associated with suicide which stem from trauma and psychological stress can include for example: intergenerational impacts of colonisation, loss of kinship connections and bereavement and ongoing grieving and sorry business; mental health difficulties and access to services; and challenges related to alcohol and other drugs [38175][38192].

A fundamental focus of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention research/initiatives is to re-establish and reflect upon the life-affirming knowledge systems which supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to flourish before colonisation, and which today are recognised as the source of strengths based, culturally safe healing best practices [43296].

Initiatives to address self-harm and suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been established across Australia [31139][31138]. See programs on the SEWB portal for information. The Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP), was established in 2017 to build and distribute evidence about successful suicide prevention approaches for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities [36445]. It was built on the work of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project 2015-2017. The CBPATSISP identifies culture as being central to the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a protective factor for suicide and high risk behaviours. The CBPATSISP promotes a focus on self-determination (controlling the process of prevention, diagnosis and healing [43296]) and community governance (for example, data sovereignty[1]), reconnection and community life and restoration and community resilience in suicide prevention programs, as the pathways to recovery from loss, grief and disconnection and trauma.

[1] This allows for Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities to control community level data to inform suicide prevention initiatives and lead evaluations usually undertaken by external agencies [43296].

References

Key resources

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