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Greens welcome start of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy

Senator Rachel Siewert today welcomed the release of the Government's response to the report: Suicide in Australia: The Hidden Toll.

“The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler has produced a timely report which addresses the 42 recommendations of the report. The Government's response indicates support for a large number of the recommendations,” Senator Siewert said.

“This is a promising and welcome sign that the Government is now taking suicide and the associated mental health issues seriously. I will watch with interest to see how the recommendations are implemented through the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, and the promised National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy," said Senator Siewert.

Senator Siewert is the chair of the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee which produced the report Suicide in Australia: The Hidden Toll.

In welcoming the government's response in the Senate, Senator Siewert drew particular attention to the pressing need for a specific National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy, and the kind of community and strengths-based initiatives that would be needed to make it work effectively.

“The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people taking their own lives is around three times higher than the general population, with that proportion even higher again among young men,” said Senator Siewert.

“There is widespread concern that the actual rate may be even higher than this, with attempted suicide believed to be significantly under-reported in Indigenous communities.

“However, we know from experience that mainstream approaches to suicide prevention and identifying those at risk don't work well in Aboriginal communities: the risk factors are different, the stresses are different – so we need to use other channels to get the message out and other strategies to reduce vulnerability and increase individual, family and community resilience.

“A specific National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy will need to take a whole-of-community postvention response to suicide, which builds on community strengths and is adapted and delivered by community-based Indigenous services.

“There is a need to deliver better social and emotional wellbeing services in communities at risk and ensure Indigenous mental health workers are available after hours. A focus on positive and strength-based programs to build resilience in young people is also essential.

“I welcome the government's commitment to put resources in and begin working on these issues. I believe it is essential that resources be made available immediately to address this issue and urge the Government to bring forward as many resources as are necessary immediately.

“We now have an excellent opportunity to work with Indigenous psychologists, health services and community workers to reduce the toll of suicide on our most disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens," Senator Siewert concluded.

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