Suicide Research

Diet, Attachment and Risk of Suicide in Far North Queensland Indigenous Communities

Research was carried out by Nerina Caltabiano, Marilyn Anderson, Maria Caltabiano and Dulcie Bird, representing James Cook University in Cairns and the Dr Edward Koch Foundation.

This qualitative study focused on a particular combination of risks of suicide in an Australian Indigenous context, a sub-population chosen because of the greater presence of suicide, but that could apply to other cultural contexts. Individual risks of suicide acknowledged in the literature, no matter what the cultural context, include social alienation and change in appetite. The literature is also replete with particularly dangerous combinations of risk, for example a keenly-felt loss accompanied by depression and substance misuse, but not the combination of loss, social detachment and diet.

The conceptual proposition of this exploratory research was that those on the cusp of being at risk of suicide, because of any number of triggers, exacerbate their risk if they weaken attachment to their usual support systems. In turn, nutrition is affected as the person at risk withdraws from the normal eating patterns of the family, further weakening resistance to suicidal ideation or actualisation.

Qualitative data was collected from Far North Queensland Indigenous communities with finding suggesting that adequate recognition of detachment and diet that compound – but not necessarily cause in themselves – risk of suicide at a critical moment may enable the arrest of an irreversible decision.

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