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This project will consider the factors associated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide in South Australia and aims to develop a strengths-based approach to suicide prevention and intervention for Aboriginal and Torres Islander people and communities.
Whilst the pathways to suicide are varied and complex, there are differences in these pathways between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people. Issues such as disempowerment, marginalisation, racism, poor access to health and education, involvement in the justice system, large burden of trauma, grief and loss as well as other health problems such as chronic disease play significant roles. To date, a systematic review of coroners’ reports on suicides of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people has not been carried out in South Australia, and those that have been carried out elsewhere have not used an evidence-based Indigenous framework to identify factors associated with suicide.
The project resulted from collaborations with key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations in South Australia over the past two years and responds community requests voiced over decades. The research team is composed of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers, clinicians and community leaders. Alongside the research team members’ involvement, other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be involved in both workshops. This is critical to realise the outcome of a strengths based framework. Drs Mackean and Reilly will lead the project and be responsible for the day-to-day management of the project.
The research team will conduct a targeted literature review. Once appropriate ethics approvals have been sought and granted, coroner’s cases will be sourced from the National Coroners Information System (NCIS) to cover a 10-year period. When the extent and nature of any possible gaps in coronial data is known, we would endeavour to link additional datasets.
The analysis of cases will occur in two parts – a comparison between Indigenous and non-Indigenous suicide, and an in-depth analysis of Indigenous suicide. The research team will develop an outline of a two part analysis framework drawing from individual expertise and the literature review. The comparative analysis framework will take account of social and demographic characteristics, the involvement of alcohol and other drugs, family and other conflicts, family and relationship breakdown, psychiatric illness, physical illness, involvement with the justice system (including incarceration) and major life events or other traumas. The in-depth analysis framework will take account of cultural factors, family factors, trauma, major life events, involvement in sport and/or art and experiences of discrimination.
A collaborative inquiry approach is essential in order to develop frameworks that allow for examination of psychological, social and cultural factors, thus both frameworks will be presented to key stakeholders as will the results of the analysis of sources coroners’ cases.
Benefits derived from this research will likely be through increasing the evidence base relating to the distinctive circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide, the translation of this evidence into programs and practice and through the development of a strengths based framework which will guide further research and policy development. This research will also contribute to the evidence of cultural as a determinant of health and wellbeing and provide support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of being, doing and knowing.
Dr Tamara Mackean