‘Protective factors and Resilience against suicidality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people: Implications for targeted suicide prevention initiatives’
Griffith University, QLD
Co-funded by Rotary Club of Toowong ‘Basil Shaw’ PhD Scholarship
“Working in front line mental health services where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are over-represented in emergency presentations but underrepresented in clinical treatment settings, it was clear that the traditional models of service delivery failed to meet the needs of First Australian young people.”
After completing her 4th year Psychology thesis in 2006 on the effect of resilience and hope on adolescent academic engagement, Mandy Gibson worked with the Department of Communities Qld, and Child and Youth Mental Health Services (Qld Health). Mandy has over a decade of clinical experience as a Psychologist providing suicide risk assessments to young people following near lethal attempts and treatment to young people experiencing suicidality, complex trauma, self-harm and other mental health issues.
Mandy managed a public health research project exploring Indigenous community perceptions of mental health services and barriers to accessing treatment, in order to develop culturally appropriate and community-approved models of service delivery for young people. In partnership with Indigenous health and education representatives, Mandy developed and delivered a social and emotional well-being program to tackle the disparity between Indigenous youth suicide rates and mental health service attendance which received a Mental Health Achievement Award.
Since 2013, Mandy has worked at the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention, Griffith University on community-based suicide prevention intervention evaluations where she co-authored the first peer-reviewed paper to report a significant decrease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicidality.
Though Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (under 18) die by suicide at 4 times the rate of their non-Indigenous peers, and this increases to over 12 times for those under 15, there is little evidence of successful interventions or strategies to address this tragic loss of young lives. With limited research exploring the unique protective mechanisms and preventative pathways against suicide for First Australian young people, many suicide prevention strategies have been guided by what is recognised to decrease suicide risk for non-Indigenous youth. It is not surprising that these models have not been appropriate or effective as evidence continues to highlight the dissimilar lived experiences of suicide from the different social, cultural and historical contexts, to the different warning signs and patterns of preventative help-seeking and even different suicidal behaviours themselves.
The overall aim of this research is to identify protective mechanisms to increase resilience against suicidality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people which could be used to inform the development of future suicide prevention initiatives and evaluation frameworks.
The four study components of this research project will be: 1) Systematic literature review of protective factors against youth suicidality for First Nations’ and Indigenous Peoples’ worldwide; 2) Analysis of all suicide deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people (9-19 years) from the Queensland Suicide Registry occurring between 1995-2015 to identify psycho social factors associated with risk/resilience to suicide; 3) Semi-structured interviews with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals with a lived experienced of childhood suicidal ideation or attempts to explore their personal reflections on the protective and adaptive mechanism which contributed to their survival, resilience and general social and emotional well-being; 4) Focus groups with community members, Elders, stakeholders, and participants from the only culturally-informed community-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicide prevention program to report reduced suicidal ideation to explore community experiences and perceptions of why the program worked and how it reduced suicidality.
Supervisors: Professor Analise O’Donovan, Dr Jaimee Stuart, Dr Gavan Palk & Dr Raelene Ward