National oversight and coordination of Indigenous suicide prevention efforts was necessary in 2013 – at the time of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy (NATSISPS) publication - and remains important now. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia (GDPSA) have been asked by the Australian government to renew the 2013 NATSISPS in consultation with stakeholders and community members.
GDPSA have produced this discussion paper which identifies key elements of the NATSISPS for renewal, changes to the policy space since 2013, and questions as to how the NATSISPS could be updated to reflect these changes and otherwise.
- The NATSISPS was developed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Advisory Group – a group of Indigenous suicide prevention experts and leaders - for the Australian government. It was intended to guide a national response, but the States and Territories were not parties to it. Since 2013 many of the States and the Northern Territory have developed their own general population suicide prevention strategies but that include responses to suicide in Indigenous communities.
- Further issues should be considered within a renewed NATSISPS and that would need coordination at the national level. In particular, an overarching Indigenous-led national strategic response to heal trauma in Indigenous communities, families and individuals and halt the intergenerational transmission of trauma. This could include (a) trauma-aware and trauma informed mental health and other services; (b) the integration of Indigenous cultural healing and other specialised areas of healing practice into the mental health system.
- In recent years, Indigenous specific jurisdictional and other telephone helplines have opened, and the COVID-19 outbreak has increased Australian government attention on the general population need for digital/online and helpline mental health supports. However, there is still a need for a national, 24/7 Indigenous-specific helpline.
- Even though integrated approaches to Indigenous suicide prevention are to be rolled out nationally, communities should remain in control of how they are implemented in place. This is important because each community, while perhaps sharing some challenges with others, will also be different – with distinct local challenges and cultural practices. Community-specific integrated approaches to suicide prevention must be free to respond flexibly and incorporate community-specific cultural solutions to their particular experiences of disadvantage.