TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE, ATTEMPTED SUICIDE AND DEATH
Let me get one thing straight before I begin, I am in no way a professional when it comes to discussing these matters but I want to share these stories. I want to be able to help young people who struggle with their mental health, I want to stand up for those who are kept silent and I want to build up my sisters and brothers because together we can take the future. These stories are never easy to write about and I understand I have to be sensitive when writing about these issues too, but I will try my best to portray the heaviness that has saturated our communities when we lose loved ones by suicide.
News from Australia this week has been so heavy on the soul, as five young Aboriginal girls committed suicide in the first few weeks of the new year. I can’t imagine what their families are going through right now, I am hurting for all of them and I send my condolences to these girls’ families. These girls were aged between 12-15 years old and it begs the question: Why does this happen?
And where/what are the suicide preventative strategies and education on suicide behaviours for or from mob in communities for our young people?
All of the young girls came from remote towns in Australia. Mob within these communities are living below the poverty line, these towns are most probably racist and deeply entrenched with drug and alcohol abuse. Factors contributing to the such high rates of suicide amongst Aboriginal youth include, but are not limited to, trans-generational trauma (which is big number one), systematic and institutionalised racist policies, colonisation, and the complete and utter disrespect for our right to sovereignty(1). I can't speak for the lived experience of growing up in these communities as I've grown up in a city community. I don't want to take away from their stories but as I can't speak for the lived experience of growing up in remote community, I will share my experience with suicide.
Side break: A study into the effectiveness of preventative measures and education of suicide behaviour of Indigenous peoples in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand acknowledges that such factors (mentioned above) can place us at significantly higher risk of suicide than the general population(2). So of course, higher levels of social disadvantage can lead to stressful events in life, such as homelessness, unemployment, family problems and incarceration. Just last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics summated that 40% of suicides were that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mob when we only make up 3.3% of the total population(3). Does that help you understand a bit of the social inequities of Indigenous mob? Just a bit I hope.
When I first spoke about the sexual abuse I had endured, I was super vulnerable. My mother was the first person I had confided in and she couldn’t help me, therefore there was no safe place for me to go to. I was utterly alone and in despair, I figured that life would only get harder from here and it did. Once everyone from my community had found out what had happened to me, nobody did anything, people vilified me and said I was lying, they suggested I asked for it and liked being raped because I didn’t say anything. I was the ‘bad guy’, so it made it easy to think about suicide. I cut myself and tried hanging myself, then it turned to excessive consumption of alcohol and drugs. I had no-one in my corner when I was 14. As I got older, my friends started taking their lives and it was so heart shattering finding out what had happened. I often think these days how much heartbreak I would have caused my family and friends if I was successful with my attempts of suicide.
I can’t imagine how lonely these young girl’s must have felt… I grieve for our youth who have had to carry such a heavy world on their shoulders and ended up taking their lives. Our communities need to do better, everyone needs to be better for our young people. There must be an implementation of services where people can go when in need of counselling, addressing mental health issues and when things aren’t safe at home. Especially in our remote communities where mob are in desperate need of such services.
Again, my heart is so heavy these days for all our mob. Wishing all my aunties, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters and friends to check in on each other more than every now and then. You never know what one could be going through in this life.
DISCLAIMER: This blog is just my personal views and thoughts on life. They should in no way be used as a substitute for professional help with anything. If you or someone you know suffers from mental illness please get professional help. For help with mental illness in Australia, you can contact Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636 or through their website here https://www.beyondblue.org.au/. For help with mental illness in Norway, you can contact Hjelpetelefonen at 116 123 or contact your local mental health centre. If you’re anywhere else in the world please search for mental health professionals in your area.