Suicide prevention: exploring Aboriginal understandings of suicides from a social and emotional wellbeing framework

PhD Thesis


Ward, Raelene Marie. 2019. Suicide prevention: exploring Aboriginal understandings of suicides from a social and emotional wellbeing framework. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/fabw-ct74
Title

Suicide prevention: exploring Aboriginal understandings of suicides from a social and emotional wellbeing framework

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorWard, Raelene Marie
SupervisorGorman, Don
Williams-Mozley, John
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages253
Year2019
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/fabw-ct74
Abstract

The purpose of this research (PhD) was to explore Aboriginal understandings of suicide from a Social and Emotional Wellbeing (holistic) Framework through the establishment of traditional yarning style approaches to interviews and focus groups. Culturally this framework fits well with an Indigenous holistic view of health, connection to land, culture, spirituality, family, and community. These are important to Aboriginal people and can impact on their wellbeing. This research was undertaken in consultation with up to 55 Aboriginal residents across Toowoomba Darling Downs and South West regions of Queensland classified as rural, remote, semi-urban and urban Aboriginal communities.

There is a need for additional research into understandings and definitions of suicidal behaviour for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities (Suicide Prevention Australia, 2009a; 2014b). The loss of a life from suicide impacts considerably on the family and the wider community, which in turn disrupts social and emotional wellbeing - mental health (De Leo et al., 2011) of Aboriginal people. As the social and emotional well-being (SEWB) and mental health problems are not completely recognised or understood from an Aboriginal perspective within the broader health care system.

It is evident that suicides among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are much more frequent in comparison to other Queenslanders, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders suicide rates are 50 percent higher (Kõlves, Potts & De Leo, 2015). Not only are these high rates characteristic of the interplay of both risk and protective factors but broader social, economic and historic factors affecting social and emotional wellbeing and mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are also important. Evidence suggests improving social and emotional wellbeing of people results in a reduction in suicides for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Mental Health Commission, 2015).

This research set out to attain a comprehensive understanding of suicides from an Aboriginal perspective. This incorporated undertaking a historical and contemporary analysis of the literature on suicide across the broader population – internationally and nationally to determine when suicides primarily occurred in Australian Aboriginal populations. In addition further historical understanding of suicides in each Aboriginal community was also important in appreciating the historical and cultural context of communities where Aboriginal people currently resided. Aboriginal participants including females and males, young people (18 years and over), middle-aged people and elders residing within each of the communities participated in pre-arranged face to face semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Thematic analysis of the data achieved a number of themes (Italics) and subthemes: Suicide, Community – underlying issues and substance misuse, Young people – relationships and help-seeking, mental health – services and awareness and Culture – cultural perspectives, social, lifestyle and leadership.

In conclusion suicide in Aboriginal communities is on the rise accompanied by intergenerational trauma, substance misuse, poverty, disempowerment, disengagement and disadvantage within the larger social and health context. Historically suicide and self-harm did not appear to exist prior to the 1960s; and there is a difference in understandings and shifts in attitudes towards suicides today. The negative effects from emotional distress, violence, self-harm, substance abuse, anti-social behaviour, behavioural and disciplinary problems are all compounded by the ongoing experiences of social and economic disadvantages further impacting on the risk of social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people and their communities.

KeywordsAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide, social and emotional, cultural wellbeing, historical and contemporary suicides, mental health, health
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020420504. Mental health nursing
450499. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing not elsewhere classified
450107. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history
420319. Primary health care
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Nursing and Midwifery
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