National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy

Action area 2: Building strengths and resilience in individuals and families

Page last updated: 2013

Suicide risk is associated with adversity in early childhood. There should be ongoing work with universal services—child and family services, schools, health services—to help build strengths and competencies and to protect against sources of risk and adversity that make children vulnerable to self-harm in later life. Prevention should work across the lifespan, directly with families or with children in schools to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are supported to develop the social and emotional competencies that are the foundations of resilience throughout life. Some strategies are intended to provide information to all parents, families, and young people to help build skills and awareness, to dispel myths and to promote active use of services and supports. Consistent with the approach to proportionate universalism, those at greater risk are assisted to access specialised services, including targeted therapeutic support for children, adolescents or parents.

Outcome 2.1 There are culturally appropriate community activities to engage youth, build cultural strengths, leadership, life skills and social competencies

  • Issue: Young people can be engaged through community cultural activities such as youth forums to promote leadership and recognise achievements that help young people build individual strengths. Culturally adapted mentorship and life skills programs can focus on healthy life choices, being in charge, thinking ahead and setting goals, and responsible approaches to first relationships. Youth need to be engaged in diverse settings including in schools, in the community, in the workplace and through participation in sports and the arts, including traditional and contemporary media.

Outcome 2.2 Life promotion and resilience-building strategies are developed; access to wellbeing services among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males is improved

  • Issue: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men from 20-34 years old have been identified as being at highest risk of suicide. They access wellbeing and counselling services or seek health for psychological distress infrequently. Traditionally recognised men’s roles have been subjected to heavy pressure from association with violence, child abuse, alcohol misuse and incarceration. Many men’s programs are not sustained and lack structure or access to professional advice.

Outcome 2.3 Long-term, sustainable prevention strategies that build resilience and promote social and emotional wellbeing are specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children

  • Issue: Parenting has been identified as a critical focus for early intervention and prevention. There are very few, if any, evidence-based parenting programs specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children that are demonstrably effective. General parenting and family wellbeing programs need to be made widely available, along with targeted interventions for high risk vulnerable families, parents and children.

Outcome 2.4 Services for the general population are adapted to improve access and use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and are appropriately linked with culturally competent services

  • Issue: Existing large scale whole-of-school programs to promote social and emotional wellbeing do not have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-specific inclusion or engagement strategies or resources and national telephone counselling programs only reach a very small component of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The preventive role of primary health care can be enhanced for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Outcome 2.5 There is capacity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to provide counselling and therapeutic support, including services for families who have experienced suicide or traumatic bereavement

  • Issue: There is a need to increase access to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander psychological services, both within primary health care and in dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counselling services. Intervention studies that specifically adapt and trial the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are required, and mental health programs in the general population should be encouraged to contribute to the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing services.

OutcomesStrategies
Outcome 2.1 There are culturally appropriate community activities to engage youth, build cultural strengths, leadership, life skills and social competenciesi. Develop criteria for support of cultural programs

ii. Review evidence for effectiveness of culture-based initiatives and evaluate cultural strengths programs

iii. Develop school and community-based life skills programs for adolescents

iv. Promote leadership through youth forums and activities to recognise achievements of young people

v. Develop models of training and skills development for peers as natural helpers

Outcome 2.2 Life promotion and resilience-building strategies are developed; access to wellbeing services among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males is improvedi. Develop strategies, including information and mental health promotion strategies, to promote use of general health and wellbeing services and specialist services by men

ii. Identify and disseminate good practices for men’s self-help groups

iii. Develop strategies to promote the strengths of elders, fathers and other men as positive role models able to contribute to the wellbeing of community, families and youth

Outcome 2.3 Long-term, sustainable prevention strategies that build resilience and promote social and emotional wellbeing are specifically developed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and childreni. Develop culturally appropriate strategies for family engagement in wellbeing programs in multiple settings

ii. Make parenting programs adapted for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples more available in universal and targeted modes to strengthen parenting skills and to improve behavioural, developmental and mental health outcomes among children

iii. Develop family focused interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and children in partnership with childcare centres and schools

iv. Disseminate information on models of effective early intervention and prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, parents and children

v. Identify school-based strategies to counter bullying, racial discrimination and lateral violence

Outcome 2.4 Services for the general population are adapted to improve access and use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and are appropriately linked with culturally competent servicesi. Adapt training resources and inclusion strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and families in mainstream programs such as KidsMatter and MindMatters

ii. Review and remodel Kids Helpline and Lifeline counselling services to provide appropriate services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in each state and territory

iii. Examine strategies to improve the preventive capacity of primary health care, including general practitioner services, routine delivery of mental health assessments, counselling, etc

Outcome 2.5 There is capacity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to provide counselling and therapeutic support, including services for families who have experienced suicide or traumatic bereavementi. Identify and evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

ii. Identify strategies to expand access to family and individual counselling through universal primary health care

iii. Build partnerships to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clinical services and workforce to be supported by the resources of headspace and other non-Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services.