The quality of life, especially among aboriginal people, remains a topical issue on all continents. Suicide is one of the main problems faced by aboriginal people. The diversity of reasons that lead to suicide needs to be understood. This paper describes and analyzes the incidence of suicide in the aboriginal communities in Australia, Canada and Taiwan. It is time to pay attention to the main causes of suicide, methods of prevention, and protection of indigenous people. The problem and consequences of suicide not only cause serious negative effects on population demographics but also change and destroy the mentality, spiritual, physical and holistic health of the target population. The challenge is to break this vicious circle of deaths.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples living in more than 70 countries worldwide. They represent a rich diversity of cultures, religions, traditions, languages and histories; yet continue to be among the world’s most marginalized population groups. The health status of indigenous peoples varies significantly from that of non-indigenous population groups in countries all over the world.
According to The Royal Children’s Hospital (2012), the rates of suicide in Indigenous communities in Australia have been increasing since the 1970s. The majority of Aboriginal people committing suicides are young people under the age of 29. Living Is for Everyone (2012) informs that indigenous males kill themselves more frequently than indigenous females. The statistical data suggest that approximately 105 males and 20 females per 100,000 aboriginals aged 25-34 commit suicide. Besides, at the age of 35-44, 62 males and 17 females per 100,000 aboriginals kill themselves. The high rate of unemployment among aboriginal males is the most obvious reason why so many aboriginal men commit suicide. Psychological weakness is the basic explanation of their general incapacity to withstand the pressures of life. Scientists are used to think that a lot of aboriginal teenagers simply follow their parents’ example. The situation in Canada is horrible, too. According to MacNeil (2008), the rate of suicides among its adolescent is the highest in the world (p.4). The fact is that there is a decline of self-killing among non-Aboriginal youth. The source (2008) gave the statistic of Canadian Institute of Child Health and said, males at the age of 15–24 commit suicide very frequent and the rate is 126 per 100,000. At the same time, of non-Aboriginal males 24 (p.4). The rate differs according to province, for instance in Northwestern Ontario it is the highest not only in Canada but in the world. It rises up to 470 deaths per 100,000 (MacNeil, 2008, p.5).
According to Wiley (2008), suicides in Asia occur “disproportionately” and are more evident in rural areas among elder inhabitants, especially in Taiwan (p.1002). The population of the Austronesians were the first one. Now there are about 12 Aboriginal communities. The author underlined a hihg rank of mental disorders and diseases in people living in mountains, hence, their suicidal intentions are higher.
The epidemiology of self-killing reveals the reasons of it, as well as consequences which generate new suicides (MacNeil, 2008, p.5). Many historical and cultural factors have created the basis for the divergency among communities and brought the inequality in social and economic spheres. Tatz (1999) made a reference to Zubin and explained suicide as a phenomenon caused by a variety of reasons, mainly, behavioral disorders. Since recently, the growing incidence of suicides among Australian Aborigines has become a worrying health issue (McCoy, 2007, p.64).
Having referenced to Ferry, MacNeil (2008) said about the behavioral and psychological aspects: feelings of shame and despair take a lot of place in their minds and are more aggravated with broken environment (p.5). The views on the world are rather different between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal people, as well as among Aboriginal communities of a definite country. Aborigines of Canada are used to have guns in their homes, because a lot of them are still hunters, hence, the rank of suicides of this category of people, especially youth, is 4-10 higher and continues to increase (MacNeil, p.7). A lot of people are drug or alcohol addicts. It means that “fetal alcohol syndrome” (FAS) occurs in 100 cases per 100 000 (MacNeil, p.7).
For instance, 95% of American and Alaska Aborigines get affected by the members of their families using alcohol. The researches show that offsprings of FAS parents have many troubles with the development of their brains and bodies. They are hard to make decisions and plan the following actions. Doubtless, they are not of full value. It explains a lack of thinking which leads to spontaneous self-killing. MacNeil made the reference to Krysinska about the understanding of Aboriginal suicides and their premeditation. People engaged in discovery of Aborigines pay attention to the importance of special reveals in order to distunguish either death is connected with a part of ritual or not (MacNeil, p.9).
The scientists take into consideration the importance of ranks between two sexes. For example, suicides in Aboriginal communities of Labrador are usually higher among males, but is much lower among non-Aborigines males (MacNeil, 2008, p.5).
Aboriginal people have many mental and spiritual problems that are the consequences of bad ecology, living conditions or loss of parents’ attitude. They more frequently suffer from different chronic diseases than others and belong to the high-risk group of people with “HIV, AIDS, and hepatitis” (MacNeil, p.7).
The feelings of anger and irritation are dominant, because they provoke general negative outlook. Many disadvantages of life are more vivid when Aboriginal youth takes such risks as gambling, unsafe driving or unhealthy sexual relations (MacNeil, p.10).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have much in common. They prefer social and emotional instruments to cure mental health. Emotions make them complete, as they represent an essential prerequisite of their wellbeing. Aboriginal people’s health is based not only on physical being; it also includes social, emotional and spiritual features that create a good environment for everyone in their community (Mindframe National Media Initiative, 2010). Much depends on the peculiar features of their religion, traditions and customs. Still, the main reasons of suicide can be found in the low social conditions, poverty, and unrealized aims of the Aboriginal people in Australia. According to Tatz (1999), suicides have touched not only their rituals, but have also impacted the Aboriginals of high social status. Tatz (1999) adds that Aboriginals have gone through severe isolation. As a result, people have become physically weak, suppressed and separated from their identity and the rest of Australians. The state and church have been guiding them for a long period of time. The lack of independence has played a profound role, as well.
Yet, the main problems lie deep in the Aboriginals’ minds. For instance, ‘slashing up’ is a common procedure, whose main goal is to get additional vitality of life through bleeding (Tatz, 1999). For these reasons, special epidemiological surveys have the potential to prevent traumas and contagious diseases among the Aboriginals. Mindframe National Media Initiative (2010) writes, that “in 2004-2005, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were twice as likely to be hospitalised for conditions classified as ‘mental and behavioural disorders’ than other Australians.”
Each Indigious population has its own peculiarities. According to McCoy (2007), ‘kanyirninpa’ means ‘holding’ and presupposes a chain of special preparations aiming to change young boys in community. In the aftermath of rituals and customs each boy become a man. Men of all ages gather together to live their special way. It has its historical ground involving social interactions and “critically-valued relationship” (p.65). There are many factors of risk that are neglected by Indigenous people. The principles of life and deaths have for them rather different explaination than for others.
According to Marks (2011), the situation in the Kimberley region in Western Australia is fearful. Suicides among 15-19 years old Aboriginal boys are three times higher than anywhere among this age group in Western Australia (McCoy, 2007, p.64). Besides, Marks (2011) explains possible reasons why Aborigines commit suicides. As people suffer from a row of difficulties, such as high unemployment, drug or alcohol addiction, or bad accommodation, they experience boredom and the lack of control, which lower their self-esteem. They do not care about their traditional culture (Marks, 2011). Undoubtedly, many behavioral disorders faced by Aboriginals have their roots in culture.
Tatz (1999) suggests that every suicide begins from parental abuse. As a result, children either live in broken families or try to escape the risks of ill-being. However, not all Aboriginals can successfully build their lives. They often find themselves in an unhealthy relationship, engage in delinquency or antisocial conduct, or neglect the common moral and social rules. Low school attendance and academic underachievement also increase the risks of suicide.
Thomas, Cairney, Gunthorpe, Paradies and Sayers (2010), gave the importance to social and emotional well-being (SEWB) of Australian indigenous youth. It included “the Strengths and Dif%uFB01 culties Questionnaire (SDQ), the Westerman Aboriginal Symptoms Checklist for Youth (WASC-Y), the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) and ... the K6+”. The last one was used for little children and teenagers. They made a focus on current mental health of people including suicide risk intentions. Each target group had many reviews and tests based on special techniques and tools. The concept ‘Soul’ became the leading one, because contained all the sides of human health.
Strong Souls analysis gathered the data from urban and rural areas in the Nothern Territory. The people who had a high score of their answers on points concerning suicide ideation and despair had to follow the local services and clinics of mental health. These researches proved that “anxiety, resilience, depression, and suicide risk” were the issues to pay attention, because were organized as a chain of that order (Thomas, Cairney, Gunthorpe, Paradies and Sayers, 2010, p.43). Heavy sleep, feelings of hopelessness and lonelinese are still very important for futher analysis, too.
There was the strategy aimed to distinguish the rank of self-killing among Aboriginal women in Taiwan, aged 60 and more. The participants were asked direct questions about their attitude to death and current social situation. It explored women’s mental processes and current health states. It also included “chi-square analysis and t-tests” and “logistic regression analysis” taht revealed the demographic issue (Wiley, 2008, p.1005). The researches gave a great role to depression and emotions, especially negative. The results were: from 240 suicides 188 were rated as occasionale, 37 had the status ‘often’ and 15 ‘very often’. Interesting, but exactly age was the main reason to self-killing. People said about their physical and mental disabilitieas, because they were old and did not want to live anymore.
After all, these elder women get the depressive state (Wiley, 2008, p.1004-1006). According to The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry(2009), Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) aims to find the accuracy of suicides among Canadian Aborigines in Saskatoon Health Region. The researches included 3 circles of sampling based on 4 datasets. The main characteristics were: age and sex of Aborigine, his/her “household income”,simultaneously “neighbourhood income”.Still, education of personality and his/her cultural status played a big role for analysis, too. The researches of the health and behavioral sides contained every detail of personal lifestyle, besides different diseases and mental malfunctions of Aborigines. As a result, about 33.1% of people with low income and social opportunities were more likely to commit suicide.
After all, Canadian Aboriginals suffer much more than English Canadians, and the main reason is in household income that generally change the status of person. The sourse (2009) added the statistisc of meta-analysis discovering the causes of dipression in people: 81% of Aborogines with low economic status more likely to go through the state of depression than others (The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, p.592).
Aboriginal people face numerous inner problems and need a helping hand. Possible suicide reasons lie in social inequality and mental/emotional problems that are related to the cultural peculiarities of different indigenous communities. Aboriginal people use different paths to solve their problems but, eventually, prefer a fatal outcome. These people need special information and support, to make sure they have sufficient emotional and mental capacity not to run from their social and spiritual difficulties. It is high time for Australia to prevent the suicide tendency among the Aborigines. Tolerance and human rationality can help a lot in these endeavors. After all, life is worth living it.