Australian region’s indigenous suicide rates worst in world

Melbourne, June 27 (IANS) Suicide rates among indigenous people in a remote region of Western Australia are among the highest in the world, a new report has found.

In the Kimberley region of WA, figures showed that self-harm was 10 times higher compared to the global average, according to a Medical Journal of Australia publication released on Monday.

An audit of the Kimberley Mental Health and Drug Service showed between 2005-2014 there were 125 suicides, with 102 of those incidences involving indigenous people, Xinhua news agency reported.

Located in north WA and covering some 421,000 sq.km, Kimberley’s population is around 40,000 people. According to the 2011 census, there is around 14,000 indigenous people residing in the region.

Young indigenous men have made up 71 per cent of the 102 suicide victims in the region over the past decade, with 68 per cent less than 30 years old and nearly a third (27 per cent) aged 20 or younger.

Of those individuals, 70 per cent were not known or had never been referred to a mental health service.

The report’s co-author and Kimberley Mental Health and Drug Service director, Murray Chapman, has called for a new approach to suicide prevention within Australia’s indigenous population.

“Collective trauma and ongoing socio-economic deprivation are drivers of escalating self-harm and suicide rates among indigenous Australians,” Chapman said in the Medical Journal of Australia article.

In 2014, suicide was the fifth leading cause of death of indigenous Australians, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Australia’s Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised over $62 million to reduce suicide rates by 50 per cent over a 10-year period.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull said his government would commit to funding for 100 Headspace services, a youth mental health organisation.

Chapman said despite new initiatives, the suicide date is set to double by the end of the decade.

“The trend, very sadly, is inexorably to get worse and worse,” she said.

“It’s going up exponentially. So there’s a doubling each decade and our data suggests that we are on track for a further doubling this decade.”

–IANS

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