The Aboriginal Health Council of WA said the lack of specific Aboriginal youth mental health and suicide prevention programs was contributing to the high suicide rate among young Aboriginal people in WA.
A survey of AHCWA’s member services around the state found the vast majority said they were concerned by the absence of programs in their community tailored specifically to Aboriginal young people.
This was despite ABS statistics, which showed that the rate of suicide among Aboriginal people aged 15-19 is almost 6 times higher than for non-Aboriginal people.
AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said the survey also found that overall there was a lack of culturally appropriate programs in the regions.
“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) believe that the biggest priority should be to introduce culturally appropriate and locally responsive empowerment and health programs for Aboriginal people,” she said.
“ACCHS are the best placed to deliver suicide prevention programs to Aboriginal people, however the survey found that they lack the training and funding to do so.
“It is imperative that Aboriginal young people have access to local, culturally appropriate services that they trust, but many of our members told us that their staff weren’t trained to deal with the complex issues around suicide,” she said.
Ms Nelson-Cox said this had prompted AHCWA to call for all frontline primary health care workers, community service employees and youth workers to be given access to Aboriginal-specific training and support relating to mental health and suicide intervention.
“It is so important for those working with Aboriginal people to have proper training to understand the complexity of the issues and how to handle them,” she said.
“The rate of suicide among Aboriginal people, particularly young people, is an absolute tragedy, and ACCHS must be given more support to tackle these issues.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said it was also vital that an Aboriginal specific youth suicide strategy be developed to complement the broader Suicide Prevention 2020 Strategy.
“I think we need to acknowledge that there are circumstances that are unique to Aboriginal young people, particularly those in remote communities, that are not specifically addressed in the broader Strategy,” she said.
“Given the appalling statistics around Aboriginal youth suicide, it is clear that this group of young people need a strategy that is specifically tailored to their circumstances and culture.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said the survey of members had been used to inform a joint submission with the Youth Affairs Council of WA to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Aboriginal Youth Suicides.
The Education and Health Standing Committee inquiry was launched following the suicide of a 10 year old girl in the Kimberley and hearings began in Broome this week.