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LGBTI Aboriginal suicide is the issue people are finally paying attention to

LGBTI Aboriginal suicide is the issue people are finally paying attention to

two people stand together in front of white screen

Steven Satour knows all to well playing a different character depending on where he is. From business meetings with ‘mainly white older men in boardrooms’ to hanging out with family in regional Australia, he has had to shift his identity constantly.

Satour is an Aboriginal gay man Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara from Central Australia and Townsville in northern Australia. He is a veteran entrepreneur and an acclaimed business leader having founded Iwara Travel Australia.

Not presenting his ‘true self’ came at a cost. Satour’s mental health suffered and so he turned to his best friend, Quinton, for help.

‘Once you do come out, there’s people who haven’t been around gay people or don’t have gay people in the family, it’s hard for them to accept or know what to do, it can lead to a whole range of miscommunications that sometimes made me feel not accepted and not sure how I should be or how I should act,’ he told Gay Star News.

So at 21 he moved to Australia’s gay capital, Sydney, where he met Quinton.

‘He also came from a small community… so we clicked really, really quickly,’ Satour said.

‘As we got to know each other we just had similar circumstances and stories, and our friendship grew.’

But then as his professional life grew, Satour found himself having to again constantly finesse his identity.

‘Getting into the corporate world, and having to be around a lot of older white men in boardrooms, they’re obviously not anywhere near a reflection of me and learning how to be authentic in those environments was really important to me,’ Satour said.

‘And Quinton for me has been that person I can tell everyday “this happened to me”, and he has helped support me through that.’

Stronger Together

Satour and Quinton have now joined forces to promote a suicide prevention campaign for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Run by suicide prevention organization, R U OK?, the Stronger Together campaign has created culturally appropriate resources for the diverse Indigenous communities in Australia.

Stronger Together showcases real conversations in action between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advocates and role models. The focus is on individuals talking about their experiences and the positive impact that sharing them had while they were going through a tough time.

The campaign focuses on the help-givers perspective as opposed to the help-receiver. Demonstrating how the help-giver asked and what that felt like thus building confidence and hope in communities that everyone can play a role in looking out for one another.

‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have a disproportionately high suicide rate in this country,’  said Katherine Newton, campaign director at R U OK?.

‘Nationally, Indigenous people die from suicide at twice the rate of non-Indigenous people.

‘R U OK? was asked repeatedly by community members to look at a campaign for these communities and sought out advice as to how best support this need.’

Steven and Quinton

That’s exactly why Satour agreed to star in the campaign with Quinton alongside other Indigenous Australians.

‘In Australia overall, Aboriginal people and queer Aboriginal people don’t always get represented in the media,’ he said.

‘When you can see yourself in media you’re more likely to take up those messages and hopefully do them day to day.’

Satour and Quinton really want to help Aboriginal people feel comfortable to open up to their friends and families. That’s even if they’re having major life problems or even if they’re just having a bit of a bad day.

‘When we’re talking about mental health overall we need to have some really specific conversations, about how do you talk to each other and that it’s ok to articulate how you’re feeling,’ he said.

Satour’s advice for helping others was simple.

‘When you see someone going through a hard time, ask the questions, are you ok?,’ he said.

‘And be prepared to sit down and listen to whatever they’re going through. It could be a day to day irritation with work, or something more monumental where they’re suffering through identity challenges.’

LGBTI representation

Including LGBTI people in the Stronger Together campaign is almost unheard of in Australia. Other than the Black Rainbow organization, there are no targeted suicide prevention initiatives for LGBTI Aboriginal Australians. That’s even though anecdotal evidence and comparable evidence from Indigenous communities in Canada suggest the rate of suicide among LGBTI Aboriginal Australians is critically high.

‘Steven’s experience identifying as a gay man is important as research has demonstrated that a disproportionate number of LGBTI Australians experience poorer mental health outcomes and have higher risk of suicidal behaviours than their peers,’ Newton said.

For Satour representation matters, but so does the culturally relevant language.

‘Any campaign with messaging, if you’re not doing it right,you know that community is not taking up your message,’ he said.

‘It’s important to be using the languages we use day to day, seeing people that you’re familiar with who think you might they’re not going through anything, but they’re either gone through it or going through or supporting someone going through something.

We’ve got so much inter-generational trauma and things we’re trying to work through ourselves, but something like this helps to strengthen and encourage conversations between ourselves and our communities.’

If you or someone you know needs mental health support, please visit this link of global resources.