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‘I’m afraid someone else will lose their child this way’: Alarming rise in Indigenous suicides | Indigenous Australians

Ashleigh-Sue Chatters had sketched a butterfly tattoo design just weeks before she died.

A 28-year-old Palawa woman who has struggled with mental illness since her teens told her mother that the delicate worms planned for her upper arm were a hymn to her will to live.

“For her, the butterfly was a symbol of survival, and even though the system gave her up, she still hadn’t given up on herself.

Ashleigh had spent numerous hospitalizations in Victoria’s burdened mental health system. In February, she was admitted to the psychiatric unit at Dandenong Hospital in Melbourne. She took her own life there on February 25, four days after her.

Her family hoped that she would be safely hospitalized. Now they are left with questions about hospital care obligations and anger at the systemic failure of the Aboriginal mental health system.

Ashleigh-Sue’s brother Wade Chatters and mother Tara. Photo: Jackson Gallagher/Guardian Australia

Ashley’s death is part of a startling rise in Aboriginal suicides in Victoria.of latest data The state coroner has revealed that 35 Aboriginal Victorians took their own lives last year, despite a decline in suicides across the state’s broader population. This is her 75% increase.This trend is also reproduced nationallyHere, indigenous suicide rates have nearly doubled in the last decade.

Racing in the Mental Health Care System

Tara raised Ashley as a single mother in her hometown of Tasmania and later in Melbourne, where the family moved to in 2014. Ashley, who received a disability assistance pension, was diagnosed with Fragile X, a genetic condition that is a common cause of intellectual disability. Autism – Childhood.

Tara had long suspected Ashley had autism, but had trouble getting a referral for a diagnosis. It is often interpreted.

“Sometimes people are talking very loudly in silence,” says Tara.

Ashley has complex mental health needs and was diagnosed over the years with schizophrenia, PTSD, anxiety, childhood schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder.

But Tara said the biggest obstacle her daughter faced was systemic racism in a mental health department that undermined her ability to receive culturally appropriate treatment.

“She was labeled just black. They thought a lot, this is how they do it, and it’s a waste of time to help her,” says Tara.

“They thought she was an Aboriginal girl and thought she was a drug addict, even though her test results didn’t show it.

“I don’t want the Aboriginal girl to die because people don’t see her as worth saving.”

Tara notes that Ashley’s request to collect leaves from outside and use them for artwork and finger painting, as her grandmother taught her as a child, was denied by staff at an inpatient mental health facility in Melbourne. I have said it many times.

“If Ashley brought up spiritual things like land and healing, she would be saying things that don’t make sense,” says Tara.

“When you’re in the psych ward, they treat everyone like white bastards. If they had a better understanding of Indigenous culture, her mental health would have improved faster.”

Annette Vickery, a Gunditjmara woman and chief executive officer of Thirrili, an indigenous service that provides support to families affected by suicide, told Guardian Australia that an Aboriginal community-managed mental health facility in Victoria They say they don’t have enough health services. “systemic barriers” and “unconscious biases” within the system.

Artwork by Ashleigh Chatters.
Artwork by Ashleigh-Sue Chatters. Photo: Guardian

“Standard mental health assessments don’t understand intergenerational trauma, its impact on mental health, and the different resilience that comes from living under adverse conditions,” she says.

Why didn’t Ashley become a suicide monitor?

A scathing report by the Royal Commission last year concluded that Victoria’s mental health system was “crisis-driven” rather than preventive.

Tara says call the police It was often the only way to get her daughter admitted to an inpatient psychiatric facility, despite police sometimes presuming that the mental patient was indigenous. alcohol or drug abuse.

A week before she died, Ashley spent a night in the emergency department at Monash Medical Center and attempted hospitalization. She told doctors that she couldn’t keep herself safe, but she was sent home even though she self-harmed there.

Four days before her death, Ashley was admitted to the psychiatric ward of Dandenong Hospital after calling the police.

Later, Tara calls the hospital and recalls being horrified after being told she couldn’t find her daughter’s nurse. Four hours later, a resuscitation specialist called and informed me that Ashley had died.

“If I had kept her at home that night, she would still be alive,” says Tara.

Ashleigh-Sue is chatting with her mother, Tara.
Ashleigh-Sue is chatting with her mother, Tara.

“I’m afraid someone will lose their child this way.”

Tara asks questions she believes only the coroner can answer. She wants to know why Ashley wasn’t put on suicide watch, how often her daughter was being tested, and why she had trouble being hospitalized in the first place.

Monash health – including Dandenong Hospital – did not answer questions when contacted by Guardian Australia.

The Victorian Government is committed to adopting the full set of recommendations from the Royal Commission’s research, including the creation of Aboriginal Social and Emotional Health Centers to create culturally appropriate mental health services. I promised.

But as reforms take place, frontline Indigenous mental health workers say their aim is to rebuild the sector and keep communities alive.

Tara, who plans to travel to Tasmania to scatter Ashley’s ashes, said that as with culture-based treatment for indigenous communities, the mental health department prioritizes family involvement in treatment and cares for loved ones. We must focus on supporting the caregivers we are trying to help, he said. .

“People need a backbone to stand strong. From the sick to the standing behind, everyone is just falling.”

  • In Australia, the lifeline for crisis support services is 13 11 14. 13 yarns 13 92 76. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK Samaritan can be reached on 116 123. Other international suicide helplines are

‘I’m afraid someone else will lose their child this way’: Alarming rise in Indigenous suicides | Indigenous Australians

Source link ‘I’m afraid someone else will lose their child this way’: Alarming rise in Indigenous suicides | Indigenous Australians

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