• Suicide rates are rising in Wagga Wagga (AAP)Source: AAP
There are almost seven deaths from suicide each day in Australia, and for Indigenous people, the numbers are more than double that of other Australians.
Nevanka McKeon

28 Jul 2015 - 5:59 PM  UPDATED 28 Jul 2015 - 5:59 PM

At a summit in Canberra in mid July community leaders came together to try to find solutions to lessen the higher rate of suicide of Indigenous peoples. 

The community of Wagga Wagga, one of the largest regional cities in New South Wales located on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, is particularly concerned by the rising rate.

Melissa 'Mary' O'Neill of the Riverina Murray Family Referral Service said the community's concern must be heard.

"The message that needs to go out there is that this community is worried about the people in this community, and this community wants to respond and do whatever we can to make sure that the affects don't cripple other peoples," said Melissa O'Neill or Mary as she is known to many in Wagga. 

In the last four months there had been as many as 13 suicides in the Wagga area, she said, athough those numbers do not indicate any specific gender or age group.

"We just need people to start talking and to make sure that it's normal to start talking"

"You know across the board is the ripple effect, so you know it's not just the immediate families, it's not extended families, it's communities affected by this."

Ms O'Neill said she encouraged people to talk openly about the difficult issue.

"We are talking more about drugs, we are talking more about family and domestic violence, we are talking more about kid's and out of home care, we're talking more about you know children's safety, we're talking more about domestic violence, she said.


"You know we need to talk more about this issue that's crippling communities."

Joe Williams is another concerned local. The former NRL player and champion boxer said suicide was a topic that he can relate to more than most.

"People are talking about it bit more now, where it sheltered for a lot of years," Mr Williams said. "And you know I'd definitely encourage people to get out there and talk because it's been something that's definitely help me when I've been in the tough times." 

Ms O'Neill said she hoped people could start opening up with one another about mental health.

"The silence is crippling our communities, you know, we know there's specialised services, we know there's aboriginal services, we knows there's aunty's and uncle's out there, we just need people to start talking and to make sure that it's normal to start talking." 

That conversation continues in Wagga Wagga with a treadmill challenge scheduled in August to raise funds and help promote suicide prevention and awareness.

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