Mother reveals heartbreak as youth suicide findings handed down

Today, the WA coroner handed down its findings into the deaths of 13 young Indigenous people in the remote Kimberley region.


Source: AAP

The mother of a 20-year-old man who took his own life says she is "broken" after hearing the findings of an inquest examining his death and the suicides of 12 others in remote WA.

Gwen Sturt from Halls Creek - a Kimberley town of less than 1500 people - said she walked out of the local court today as the findings were read.

I feel really broken up ... that's why I walked out. I cried for each and every one.
"It's just so sad what was said."

The WA Coroner, Ros Fogliani, handed down her report into the deaths of 13 Indigenous young people in the remote Kimberley region between 2012 and 2016 - five were aged between ten and 15.

The findings showed the tragic cases were shaped by intergenerational trauma and poverty - noting that most of the young people had no contact with mental health services prior to their death.

The State Coroner made 42 recommendations - including universal screening of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and that it be recognised by the NDIS; that mental health treatment plans for Aboriginal people offer an option to include traditional cultural healing; and that there be better mental health facilities in the East Kimberley.

Gwen said she was relieved it was over - despite the sadness - but has criticised the "drawn-out process" of the inquest.

She said it has added the trauma of her son's death in 2015.

The way we lost my son was terrible, what we went through... and [the inquest] took so long, it hurt everyday.
"Another month went past and another month went past - then it was a year."

Ms Sturt said it was difficult for herself and her two sons to carry on with their lives as they waited for the findings.

"Aboriginal people are emotional, we can't just carry on with our lives one week after something has happened."

The region has some of the world's worst youth suicide rates, according to a 2016 report published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

More than 40 reports - including today's inquest - have been authored on the issue and millions of dollars injected into the region's health services over the past 15 years.

 If you would like to talk to someone about your mental health, here are some people ready for your call:
• SANE Australia Helpline 1800 18 SANE (7263)
• beyondblue support service line 1300 22 46 36
• Lifeline 13 11 14
• MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

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3 min read
Published 7 February 2019 at 3:33pm
By Emily Jane Smith