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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are identified as a priority population for suicide prevention in Australia.

It is important to acknowledge that the histories of resistance and resilience are as much part of Aboriginal culture and identity, as are the experiences of devastation.

Suicide, suicidal ideation and self-harm are critically important and preventable public health issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Consideration of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be situated within a context that recognises the impact of racism, a history of colonisation, dispossession and polices of exclusion and child removal and the social and economic disadvantage many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples experience.

Understanding Social and Emotional Wellbeing

Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples prefer the term social and emotional wellbeing as it fits well with a holistic view of health. In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and community. It also recognises the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.

Protective factors

There are unique aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture that can have a significant influence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, and that enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to maintain spirituality central to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander notion of health. Connection to land, spirituality and ancestry, kinship networks, and cultural continuity are commonly identified as important health protecting factors.

Indigenous initiatives

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia is a national independent and inclusive Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention leadership body, encompassing cultural and clinical elements to benefit all communities.

For more on Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration see:

Indigenous lived experience network

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Hon Ken Wyatt has announced $1 million towards an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Network within the Black Dog Institute. This is to provide a national representative voice for Indigenous people with lived experience of suicide. 

For more information about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Network see: 

What we know about suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Suicide has emerged in the past half century as a major cause of premature mortality and is a contributor to the overall health and life expectancy gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.1 

Suicide was the 5th leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, compared to the 12th leading cause of death for non-Indigenous.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suicide data 2018


Further suicide data can be found on the ATSISPEP website, and from the ATSISPEP report. 

While the above numbers reflect that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide is a significant public health issue, they are likely to underestimate the true scale of the problem. Data collection particularly real time data remains an important issue when considering data about suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In this section

What we know about suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

An overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide in Australia

Risk of suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

A broad overview of the complex factors that heighten the risk of suicide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Guidelines to improve assessments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people presenting to hospital

The Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies), commissioned by the Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention have developed evidenced-based New guidelines to improve assessments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people presenting to hospital with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.