The Aboriginal Health Council of WA has welcomed a State Government commitment to fund suicide prevention training in the Kimberley as a step in the right direction.
The government today announced $145,000 would be provided to organisations in the Kimberley to conduct suicide prevention training, with $93,000 of this allocated to train Aboriginal people.
AHCWA Chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox said the funding was a good first step.
“Our member services have told us that they feel they lack the support and training to deal with the serious and complex issues around suicide, particularly in regional communities,” she said.
“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, and we hope this funding means many of them will get that training.
“However, we have called 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. We don’t believe this funding will stretch far enough to provide training for all those people.”
Ms Nelson-Cox said AHCWA was also concerned that the government announcement did not specifically mention young people, who are the most at risk of suicide.
ABS statistics show that the rate of suicide among Aboriginal people aged 15-19 is almost 6 times higher than for non-Aboriginal people.
“While providing suicide prevention training is a good start, our members believe the most pressing problem is the lack of specific Aboriginal youth mental health and suicide prevention programs, particularly in the regions,” she said.
“A survey of AHCWA’s member services around the state found the vast majority said they were concerned by the absence of programs, and we believe this is contributing to the high rate of suicide among Aboriginal people.
“The survey also found that across all age groups there was a lack of culturally appropriate programs in the regions.
“The rate of suicide among Aboriginal people, particularly young people, is an absolute tragedy, and we hope that once training has been provided, there will be more funding to allow Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) to develop programs to tackle these issues.
“It is imperative that Aboriginal people have access to local, culturally appropriate services that they trust, and we believe that these services are best delivered by well trained staff at ACCHS.”
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 AHCWA also welcomed news that grants for suicide prevention training would be rolled out across the state.