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HomeAlice Springs News, Issue 30What leads to people thinking about suicide?

What leads to people thinking about suicide?

Patterns of behaviour emerge from the sad stories of suicide. In the wake of the recent tragic deaths by suicide of five young Aboriginal people in our region, the Alice Springs News spoke to Craig San Roque, a psychotherapist and member of the steering committee of Life Promotion, Central Australia’s suicide prevention program. He has had experience over many years of collaboration with Aboriginal people, in particular with traditional healers. He speaks of the problems using the image of the hand.
“For some people suicide is structural, like the back of their hand, with them all the time as a meditated, premeditated action, though it may be disguised, covered over with a skin.
“For these persons there may be an intense and long lasting psychic pain – the nerves in the hands. Suicide is contemplated as a release from pain, from an illness.
“Or there may be ‘bad blood’ – between people, or within a family or there may be family history of taking one’s own life. This gets to the idea of family patterns or  patterns of character that turn one to the destructive or sinister side of life, perhaps an embedded depression or psychosis or personality disorder, a bipolar disorder. It’s ‘in one’s blood’, so to speak, and when combined with premeditation and intense suffering, it might lead inevitably to a planned death. A self-managed euthanasia.”
The other main form of suicide is impulsive self-harm linked with the loss of the will to live, which Dr San Roque speaks of using the image of the palm of the hand: “In the centre of the palm of the hand is a pair of opposites  – intense anxiety and / or profound listlessness.  A stigmata wound.”
The thumb and fingers stand for the five forms of intense primal feeling / emotion:
• suicide as an expression of loss, grief and mourning;
• suicide as depression;
• suicide as an act of rage and frenzy;
• suicide as jealousy – a crime of passion;
• suicide as disappointment.
“Loss, depression, rage, jealousy, disappointment may lead some persons to suicide as impulse – especially if mixed up in a situation of high emotional display, anxiety, fear and chaos, or listlessness and loss of self.”
Then there’s the fist – pressure.
“Some people take their lives when put under intense pressure and contradiction – pressure  of expectation or the pressure of not being able to resolve different demands from too many people. I think some of the suicides recently in Central Australia have been because those people took their lives away as a way out of the pressures.
“Display among Aboriginal young people is something to look out for. Suicide as an action to display before others one’s own state of  jealousy, disappointment, rage, grief.
“In display the young person may not be thinking at all  —it is an impulse of self-centred attention seeking and therefore dangerous.
“Display is very dangerous when a mind and body is in the grip of drunkenness, drug intoxication, alcoholic frenzy.
“We have to add into all this the strange factor of the fashion, the ‘craze’ that can move among young people in our communities.
“People catch the idea and suicide becomes a popular way of acting – or as others might say – of acting out a cultural pattern of rage, of loss, of listlessness, of disappointment, jealousy and envy. In this way suicide might also be a kind of sacrificial act – a  strange kind of suicide, a form of unthought self-immolation like those souls who burned themselves as a protest in the outrageously cruel regions of the world.
“This pattern of display, the pattern of the suicide craze, of intoxicated despair – I think this might be the beast who stalks Central Australian Aboriginal camps and towns and takes away the life.”
Life Promotion manager Laurencia Grant says it is promising that the issue of suicide is not as silenced as it once was.
“Many Aboriginal people are talking up about suicide and are more willing to work in mental health and suicide prevention or to attend training to help stop suicides and to address this problem.”
She stresses the importance of knowing that many suicides are preventable: they can be stopped.
“If more people have skills and knowledge, less fear of suicide and understand that this is a shared problem, this will impact on the rates.
“So effective collaboration between sectors of housing, employment, health, drug and alcohol, child protection, law enforcement, education and mental health can go a long way toward helping. And ultimately once Indigenous people have greater control over their own lives and own services, suicide rates will decline as has been the case among some Indigenous communities of North America,” says Ms Grant.


  1. Good onya, mates! It’s time to admit these problems exist so they can be addressed. Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. Teenagers should be asked from time to time if they have thoughts about hurting themselves or others. If the answer is yes, it’s time to go into therapy.

  2. It’s Time! For wholistic healing of mind, body and spirit along Kanyini principles which Uncle Bob Randall talks about.
    There needs to be generational deep healing. Young people are lost, they have not many role models for a healthier alternative and parents have lost their identities and connection with culture, land, spirit, roots and knowledge.
    Holistic Social Anthropologist.

  3. @Jane,
    Precisely why the alcohol supply tap should be turned down.
    An example needs to be set by all tiers of government towards young people by sending the message that seven days per week take-away alcohol is not a policy setting that encourages moderation.
    I could say that governments are being hypocritical, but lack of sense is more revealing.
    We talk about common sense, even in this Alice Springs Council by-election.

  4. Suicide can be from intense pressure to succeed beyond what a person is capable of, or maybe years of rejection of a person because of colour, creed nationality or disability.
    Years of put downs, laughing at people for being what they are, for not being like the models on TV or being poor or not being able to speak.
    Any constant downputting of a person can lead them to want to leave this earth behind. Pressure to get top marks or sometimes people saying that because of a disability the person cannot achieve what others do. Or maybe peer pressure to do the wrong thing when it is against someones principles.
    No simple answer but certain things can be done. Don’t take from someone what is theirs, don’t tell a person he/she is not worth anything. Don’t tell a person they are not as capable as another who knows less. Derogatory remarks are a lead up to suicide thinking.
    Also is a person is not able to get help when they need it and should be given it, then that can lead to a downhill path and thoughts of suicide.
    Not being able to work for some reason or having someone else take over your life is also a reason for suicidal thoughts, especially if you should be able to get help but cannot.
    To be told it is not your turn to get a job, or help can lead to suicide. Family rejection or downgrading can lead to it too.
    There is no simple answer but the main thing is to make people feel worthwhile no matter what their level of achievement.
    It is so easy to look after the top achievers and ignore anyone else, to understand that people are not always to blame for their lack of achievements is vital.
    One example is the INDUE card and the BASIC Card. Some seem to think that all poor people are poor because they want to be. Others don’t take into account that there are poor who had no chance to be anything else.
    Sometimes governments or families are responsible for some being poor because of the greedy selfish attitude that they have.


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