Overall suicide rates in the Northern Territory continue to be notably higher than for the general Australian population. The youth suicide rate in the NT is three and a half times the national average and indigenous suicide rates are considerably higher than for the general Australian population.

Many factors contribute to the higher rate of suicide in the NT, including the remote nature of much of the population, a low availability of psychosocial support, and the percentage of people who fall into high-risk categories.

Focused and culturally secure service models are required in order to reduce this disparity. This World Suicide Prevention Day, we hear from Tiffany Broadbent, Support Facilitator, who works at Mission Australia’s Suicide Prevention Program in Katherine, NT.

Can you paint us a picture of the community you work in?

Our office is based in Katherine, NT, which is 320km south of Darwin. Katherine is often referred to as “where the outback meets the tropics”. There is a population of 6,303, with 26 Indigenous languages spoken in Katherine alone.

We also provide services to the other remote Aboriginal communities including Binjari (15.6km from Katherine), Jilkminggan (137km from Katherine) and Lajamanu (558km from Katherine).

What is the focus of your program? How long has it been running?

The Suicide Prevention Program began back in December 2018. Our focus is to increase the capacity of the communities we work in, so individuals in the community are able to identify and support someone who may be feeling suicidal.

What are some initiatives you’ve put into place?

We have developed a Community Action Plan in response to suicidal behaviours. We’re also working in a collaborative partnership with Katherine District Hospital to develop a referral pathway for people who present to the emergency department after a suicide attempt or if they’re reporting suicidal ideation. 

We are still in the embryonic stages of these projects but it’s encouraging that there’s been an increase of individuals wanting to find out information and receive training.

How do you work collaboratively with other organisations?

Networking, networking, networking! If I hit a brick wall, I will take cake to the next engagement with that service. Cake really brings people together I have learnt!

How do you ensure your programs are culturally sensitive for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

Consultation with local Aboriginal groups, elders and Traditional owners. Every community is individual so constant conversations are needed to ensure we are working in a culturally secure manner.  

What is the best and hardest part of what you do?

I am constantly humbled to bear witness to our participant’s stories. I feel very honoured when someone shares their deep pain, to be in such a position of trust is as very special privilege.

The hardest part is being in a remote community, where there is limited access to particular services. It is so hard to be able to support someone when there is limited support available or not the right type of support.

How can we raise awareness of suicide prevention with people we know?

Talk to the people you know. If you feel like something isn’t right, just ask. It’s better to ask the question than to lose a loved one.

Suicidal feelings can happen to anyone - reach out if you’re not feeling yourself. Whatever the problem is, it can get better as long as you’re alive!

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