Cultural Connectedness Found to Influence Suicide Mortality Rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth

In commemoration of NAIDOC Week, Australian Rotary Health is highlighting one of our PhD Scholars, Mandy Gibson, who published her PhD research last year on the importance of cultural connectedness for Indigenous people’s social and emotional wellbeing.

Dr Gibson has proven herself as an advocate for mental health, with over a decade of clinical experience as a psychologist, providing suicide risk assessments to young people experiencing suicidality, complex trauma, self-harm and other mental health issues. She managed a public health research project exploring Indigenous community perceptions of mental health services to further develop culturally appropriate models of service delivery for those youth.

Suicide rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been persistently higher than other Australians. First Nations people under 18 years of age are three times more likely to die by suicide than other young Australians.

“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,” said Dr Gibson.

The objective of her research was to examine the associations between community cultural connectedness indicators and the suicide mortality rates for these vulnerable youths. The research concluded that there were no statistically significant links between Indigenous suicide mortality rates to socio-economic resource levels. Though, there was a high suicide mortality rate of young First Nations people in areas with low levels of cultural social capital (such as participation in cultural events, ceremonies and community activities) and high levels of reported discrimination.

Such findings by Dr Gibson and her team suggest that suicide mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in Queensland were largely influenced by their individual cultural connectedness.

Implications of this research can lead to strategies for cultural engagement and anti-discrimination efforts to ultimately reduce the number of Indigenous youth who die by suicide.


Media contact: Alexander Galati –

First published 4th July 2022

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