Suicide. You want to talk about ? Great. But are you prepared too listen about it as well? The messaging in suicide prevention is that ‘we need to talk about suicide’. Which is great, conversations matter. However if you really want to prevent suicide, we need to listen to what is being said not just talk, talk, talk. And if you truly listen you will find that the solution is usually rooted in the group affected most by a suicide. For example. Female suicide. Where would the best place to go for solutions? To males? Would that make sense? No. It wouldn’t too me either and I am male. Just in case you didn’t know, female suicide accounts for roughly 25% of all suicides; the remaining 75% is made up of male suicides. But its not a competition. Unfortunately, the Australian Bureau of Statistics hasn’t looked out side the heteronormative binary of male and female as yet, therefore trans* suicides are not recorded.
By definition ‘suicide prevention’ is an output. Did you know that? Suicide prevention is defined as the ‘collective efforts to reduce the incidence of suicide’. The efforts. Thats why earlier I used the term prevent suicide; that’s an outcome. If we perhaps changed our language into preventing suicide, our minds might catch up to equating this with actual outcomes; instead of outputs. And, if we listened more about suicide, from the group that are affected by it the most, we would most likely see a reduction in suicides.
But another example of solutions rooted in the group affected. For the LGBT community, who do you think would be best suited to offer solutions to LGBT suicides? You guessed it, the LGBT community. Some startling facts about LGBT suicide. 20% of trans Australians and 15.7% of lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians report current suicidal ideation. A report form WA showed that policies in schools to reduce homophobic bullying reduced suicides and suicidal ideation amongst LGBT students dramatically. Talking about LGBT suicide is actually a good place to highlight some of the preventative measures that are in place that have come about by listening to the LGBT community.
In Australia we have Safe Schools, No To Homophobia campaign (AFL), Beyond ‘That’s So Gay’, and more recently Rainbow Laces (SKINS). There also numerous reports and there’s the MindOUT! National LGBTI Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Project (which is sadly is only funded until June of this year). All wonderful and for all intents and purposes, successful campaigns. My favourite is the Safe Schools campaign because it is a system response; much like a societal intervention. Most of the others are more about ‘awareness raising’ and ‘inclusive symbolism’ — which to be honest I wish were around when I was going through my teens and at high school. At 13 I really couldn’t say if I was straight or gay. But I was bullied quite severely because I acted ‘gay’. The bullying was so that I ended up going to a boarding school in another state for two years. Which surprisingly had little to no homophobic bullying, if any at all.
Ok, so listening about suicide. You still with me? Suicide for Indigenous Australians is at double the rate of non-Indigenous Australians. Indeed as a population group, Indigenous Australian suicides are the 12th highest in the world. Horrendous. Devastating. But preventable. You might have heard recently, the news that rattled our nation to its core, of the tragic suicide of a 10 year old Aboriginal girl. Heartbreaking for all Australians. Did you know there were 18 Indigenous Australian suicides in three months leading up to this little girl’s tragic death? You might’ve heard recently, that there have been multiple Aboriginal suicide attempts abroad. Particularly in a small First Nation’s community in Canada. Nearly 20 attempts over a period of 10 days. Unfathomable.
So how to respond you reckon? Common sense would be to listen to Indigenous people for solutions. Right? We’d do it for women and it looks like it works for the LGBT community. So why wouldn’t we listen to Indigenous people in these cases? Here in Australia it is too easy too look at Indigenous suicides and lay blame on Indigenous people. Not look at the systemic racism that exists leading to impoverished communities. Its easier to point to the surface level stuff like abuse, violence, alcohol and drug use. Scratch a little deeper you will find systemic racism. EVERYWHERE. Confoundingly, when Indigenous Australian dies by suicide in urban centres, the CBD or the North Shore these very same social determinants are not spoken of in the register that they otherwise are. They are applied to LGBT suicides and they most certainly are not automatically applied to non-Indigenous Australians; female or male.
I’ll leave you with this. Over the years we have seen an increase in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders lives lost to suicide. So, hand on my heart, as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Gay Australian, I want too put this to you. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been talking about suicide for many, many, years. So why haven’t people been listening to our solutions? How many more of our brothers and sisters need to die before the talk, talk, talk stops and the listening begins? Because that’s whats going to prevent suicide. You mark my words.