Funding plea to prevent suicide

Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
National Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project National Coordinator Gerry Georgatos, NSPTRP Director, Megan Krakouer, Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project (NJP), George Newhouse, Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service chair Sandy Davies, WA Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Dennis Eggington, GRAMS chief executive Deb Woods.
Camera IconNational Suicide Prevention & Trauma Recovery Project National Coordinator Gerry Georgatos, NSPTRP Director, Megan Krakouer, Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project (NJP), George Newhouse, Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service chair Sandy Davies, WA Aboriginal Legal Service chief executive Dennis Eggington, GRAMS chief executive Deb Woods. Credit: Geoff Vivian The Geraldton Guardian

Senior officers from local and national Aboriginal organisations say Yamaji people from the Murchison and Gascoyne have the nation’s highest suicide rate.

They have joined shadow mental health and Aboriginal affairs minister Zac Kirkup in calling on the WA Government to fund preventative programs.

Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Health Services chief executive Deborah Woods said her organisation was “stoutly capable” of delivering prevention and other intevention services, immediate and long-haul, but lacked vital funds.

“GRAMS must be supported by the WA Government with funding to co-ordinate at least two full-time psychologists and at least six fulltime Aboriginal mental health practitioners,” she said.

“This is in addition to the funding for other allocations required to prosper the successes and sustainability these eight positions can potentially provide our people.”

Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Services chairman Sandy Davies said the Yamaji suicide rate was more than twice that for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley.

“The staggering toll these last 10 months has devastated our people, impacted every community in the Gascoyne-Murchison, impacted the majority of our families far and wide,” he said. “Standalone, 2019 describes more urgency than any other time this last quarter-century for the Yamaji peoples of the Murchison-Gascoyne.

“There is an increasing trend, and a sense of permanency, of unnatural losses, particularly of suicide, of our people.”

National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project national co-ordinator Gerry Georgatos said so far this year Yamaji people had taken their own lives at a rate of 87.5 per 100,000.

“The Kimberley’s First Nations suicide rate for 2019 is less than 35 per 100,000,” he said.

“By comparison, thus far this year the suicide rate for the Kimberley’s First Nations peoples has fallen by more than a half from its record high of 74 per 100,000,” he said. Mr Kirkup said he had spent Sunday and Monday in Geraldton researching Aboriginal suicide.

“There needs to be a significant and immediate injection of funding,” he said. A WA Government spokesman said more than $73 million had been approved to redevelop the Geraldton Health Campus, which is to include an acute psychiatric unit and a short-stay mental health unit.

“Work is also underway to develop a $5.93 million community mental step up/step down facility for Geraldton, which will housed on the site of the former Sobering Up Centre,” he said.

“The McGowan Government is investing $12.8 million in the Mid-West across a range of mental health services, and alcohol and drug treatment services with the WA Country Health Service and non-government organisations.”

If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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