SUICIDE FIRST AID: When assisting an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Person

Last Friday a handful of NCNS staff attended a pilot Suicide First Aid Training course run by Mental Health First Aid Australia (MHFAA).

The MHFAA program was created in 2000, with an aim to include mental health in first aid training. They hope to enable the public to feel more confident providing initial support to members of their community who may be in a mental health crisis.

This pilot training focused on supporting Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people who are at risk of suicide by incorporating information that was culturally specific within the course.

The statistics around suicide for Aboriginal people is the reason why it is so important that this course is being developed:

·   Aboriginal people are twice more likely to die by suicide than non-indigenous Australians

·   Aboriginal people 15- 44 are 4 times more likely to die by suicide

·   During the last 12-18 months, Aboriginal children as young as 8 have taken their own life.

Katrina Dart (MHFAA facilitator) stated that “Aboriginal people are the most researched but still the least understood.”

Before 1967 Aboriginal people weren’t even counted in the census and were represented as flora and fauna. They experienced loss of cultural identity, dispossession of land, social exclusion, and racism.  Aboriginal Elders experienced discrimination and genocide and they are still dealing with this today. The trauma experienced across generations is a major contributor to the risk of suicide among the Aboriginal Population.

Another factor contributing to their risk of suicide is that the Aboriginal Community has a high percentage of people with chronic disease. This is why programs such as Closing the Gap (which connects Aboriginal clients to culturally safe services) are so important.

We need to be aware of cultural considerations when supporting an Aboriginal person who is at risk of suicide but must not assume that all Aboriginal people are the same.  Aboriginal Culture is broad; each clan has their own subculture and language.

The need for this course was apparent when during the training, one of our NCNS Caseworkers asked, “How do I ask a client about suicide without putting the idea in their head?”

This is one of the most common misconceptions out there about suicide. In this course, we learnt that asking the question can prevent suicide as it shows someone is willing to listen and ways that you can do this.

MHFAA currently have a 14 hour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid Course. To find out more about this course please click here.

This Pilot Suicide First Aid training is a more in depth look at suicide prevention among the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Communities. We look forward to this training becoming available to local services and community members.





Kelly, C. Pross, E. Blee, F. and Dart, K. ‘Suicide statistics’ Suicide First Aid when assisting an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Person, a course handbook [Draft] presented 19th May 2017 by Mental Health Health First Aid Australia


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