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Mind the gap on indigenous health

By Billi McCarthy-Price - posted Thursday, 30 May 2013


There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

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Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

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In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.Mind the Gap on Indigenous Health

By Billi McCarthy-Price

There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.Mind the Gap on Indigenous Health

By Billi McCarthy-Price

There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.Mind the Gap on Indigenous Health

By Billi McCarthy-Price

There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.Mind the Gap on Indigenous Health

By Billi McCarthy-Price

There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

Mind the Gap on Indigenous Health
By Billi McCarthy-Price

There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.Mind the Gap on Indigenous Health

By Billi McCarthy-Price

There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.Mind the Gap on Indigenous Health

By Billi McCarthy-Price

There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.Mind the Gap on Indigenous Health

By Billi McCarthy-Price

There remains a 10-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia.

Around 12 per cent of this difference has been attributed to mental health conditions, with four per cent to suicide and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse.

Australians must start paying attention. What's more, they must be made more aware of the phenomenally high rates of Indigenous youth suicide that contribute to this gap.

Male Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15-19 are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous males. Meanwhile, female Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than non-Indigenous females.

To put this in real terms, between 2000 and 2010 there were 106 young Indigenous men and 43 young Indigenous women who committed suicide.

That's 149 kids.

That's 149 grieving families, 149 devastated communities, 149 classrooms with an empty desk, 149 sports teams missing a player, and 149 bright futures with endless possibilities extinguished forever.

A combination of individual, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide. Risk factors are characteristics associated with suicide. They may or may not be direct causes.

These include personal, family or community history of suicide, history of poor mental health including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. They can also include a history of alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, loss, grief, and discrimination.

In Indigenous populations, mental health is referred to as 'social and emotional wellbeing' (SEWB). This incorporates the idea of mental health, but also acknowledges the importance of factors outside the individual, such as cultural identification, spirituality, and the community.

Indigenous youth in Australia are at a high risk for developing poor SEWB. This is due to their increased exposure to risk factors, experiences of life stressors, and social and economic disadvantage, when compared to non-Indigenous youths.

Poor SEWB in youth populations is linked to a number of negative outcomes like increased likelihood of smoking, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, poorer social skills and physical health, and lower education attainment. Moreover, poor SEWB in Indigenous youth is severe across continents and cultures and reveals a true gap in health. Governmental and non-governmental agencies worldwide are attempting to address this issue through various research initiatives and by funding an increasing number of programs.

But if present rates of Indigenous youth suicide are anything to go on; it's not enough. More must be tried and achieved.

Early interventions in childhood and adolescence can improve outcomes for youths suffering poor SEWB. Such programs have been proven to be a powerful prevention strategy, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) publishing data that shows the greatest success is achieved when programs address risk and protective factors early in life.

The Australian Government needs to increase investment and research into school-based youth-orientated prevention and intervention programs. These should aim at decreasing elevated rates of SEWB problems, with a focus on reducing suicide amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths.

To achieve this, funding to mental health services in schools will need to be increased, along with the establishment of successful SEWB programs in physical education and health studies. This will ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to learn and develop skills, which will help them deal with possible mental health problems in the future.

Importantly, school-based programs must include culturally relevant material and be presented in a way that is culturally sensitive and appropriate. These should be available and easily accessible in schools with a high Indigenous youth population. This will increase Indigenous children's knowledge and understanding of mental health issues.

In-school programs such as the Aussie Optimism program, created to strengthen social and emotional skills and reduce the effects of risk factors, have been found to be effective in youth populations. Developing these prevention and intervention programs and increasing their availability can increase the number of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youths with positive SEWB and help build strong and healthy generations of young people for years to come.

Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth suicide rates requires a strong and long-term commitment from the entire nation: governmental organisations; local community services; and individuals themselves.

Yet without adequate funding or allocation of resources, the ability to fuel people's desire to make and see changes within a generation will be limited.

Indigenous people must take the lead in addressing youth suicide and develop appropriate and culturally sensitive prevention and intervention programs, in order to adequately target the underlying issues involved in poor SEWB.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.

But all Australians should feel empowered to support and unite with others in addressing poor SEWB in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. By working together and rallying more support, we can all help to significantly reduce SEWB issues, like suicide, and finally close the gap.

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About the Author

Billi McCarthy-Price is a student at The University of Western Australia and a Global Voices delegate to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues underway in New York.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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