Call for more action in preventing Indigenous youth suicide

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Indigenous art depicting Our Lady with child Jesus. Photo: Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney

Bishops issue statement for organisations to better support communities affected by suicide

Australia’s Catholic bishops have issued a stirring call for action to prevent youth suicide in the lead up to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday on July 7.

Experts are calling the rates of indigenous deaths by suicide a national crisis with at least 24 young Indigenous people taking their lives already this year, three of them only 12 years old, according to the National Indigenous Critical Response Service.

In a pastoral statement and video message released 18 June the bishops outlined five key principals to help government, faith-based and other organisations to better support communities struggling to cope with the loss of young lives and prevent further tragedies.

The five-point plan includes encouraging greater collaboration, respect for Indigenous peoples’ self-determination, a focus on the common good, that stakeholders’ motives be free of self-interest, and that there be a focus on both prevention and cure.

“While there has been many disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people taking their lives, no society is immune from this sad reality,” Bishop of Broome Christopher Saunders said in the video message.

“We all need to remember that Jesus, who laughs and cries with us, is the way, the truth and the life.”

Darwin Bishop Charles Gauci said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a deep spirituality and faith and are deeply concerned about the challenges which their young people face.

“Young people can often feel alienated and young people in cross cultures can often feel more alienated” he said.

Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, chair of the Bishops Commission for Relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, said Indigenous Catholics were a growing demographic in the Catholic Church, numbering more than 130,000.

The theme of this year’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday is “Peace to this house and all who dwell within”.

If you or anyone close to you needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.

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