Australia Suicide cluster highlights dangerous combination of social isolation and family violence for some migrant women

02:07  20 september  2020
02:07  20 september  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Her investigation found women from South Asian countries who had moved to Whittlesea faced cultural and geographical barriers to mental health and family violence services, and were at risk of social isolation , family violence and financial dependence.

Identify the effects of social isolation and loneliness on physical, mental and cognitive health. About 28 percent of those dissatisfied with their family life feel lonely all or most of the time, compared with Still, some research has found that engaging older adults in community and social groups can lead to

a person standing in front of an elephant: Priya moved to Melbourne with her husband and it was not long before she feared for her life. (ABC News: Nicole Asher) © Provided by ABC Health Priya moved to Melbourne with her husband and it was not long before she feared for her life. (ABC News: Nicole Asher)

Sleep doesn't come easily for Priya*.

If it's not the ringing in her damaged ear keeping her awake, it's the terrifying dreams of her abuser.

Two years ago Priya packed up her life in India to be with her new husband in Melbourne.

"In our culture, a husband is like a god and I was treating him like a god," Priya said.

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Domestic violence affects people of all ages, genders, sexualities, cultures, and levels of income. We are concerned that social distancing and self- isolation will be used as a tool of coercive and “Self- isolation is an important step in the fight against the coronavirus … but can be dangerous for

Social isolation is among the most common risk factors identified by Australian men who attempt The Black Dog Institute interviewed 35 men who had survived a suicide attempt, and 47 family or There was a “wealth of evidence” that men had more restricted social networks than women , and

"Whatever he said, that was a truth for me.

"When I came to Australia, I was totally dependent on him. He was the one who was guiding me for everything."

But it wasn't long before she feared for her life.

"He dragged me to the washroom and he was just banging my head on the wall," she said.

"The tap in the washroom got inserted in my ear and it was all bleeding.

"Still today I have issues with tinnitus. I had injuries everywhere."

Priya learnt to dread Friday nights and, at times, she entertained thoughts of suicide.

She'd dawdle on her way home from work knowing the abuse, at the hands of her husband and brother-in-law, with whom they lived, would escalate and she'd be trapped all weekend.

"One night he jumped on my stomach with his knee and he was punching me, punching me," Priya said, describing abuse at the hands of her husband.

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Women not being believed when they disclose the sexual and physical abuse they experience is sadly a phenomenon we are used to seeing. Women who come to the UK as migrants are at higher risk of abuse, but shame and isolation prevents them receiving the support they need.

PDF | Introduction: Perceived social isolation (PSI) is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. e UPMC McKeesport Family Medicine and Psychiatry Residency Program, Pittsburgh, PA. emotional problems ensue. For example, social isolation is known to be associated with.

Eventually her boss, familiar with Priya's frequent injuries, suggested she speak to the police.

"I was so not aware about the laws over here," Priya said.

Fear for her reputation, and that of her family in India, meant she stayed with her abuser until late last year.

"I really want a peaceful life, no stress," she said.

Suicides linked by isolation

Priya still hasn't found that peace, regularly checking revenge-porn websites fearing she'll see her face. But she's working through her PTSD with the help of a psychiatrist.

Her story is distressingly common.

The plight of immigrant women like her has been thrown into the spotlight with an investigation by Coroner Audrey Jamieson into a cluster of suicides in the Whittlesea and Hume local government areas, in Melbourne's north.

Over six months in 2018 three women from Epping and Thomastown died by suicide.

Another three women died in similar circumstances in 2019.

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Experiences of violence , including intimate partner violence (IPV) are associated with higher prevalence of suicide thoughts and attempts. Those who had “de-transitioned” at some point, meaning having gone back to living according to their sex assigned at birth, were significantly more

We assessed social isolation in terms of contact with family and friends and participation in civic organizations in 6,500 men and women The purpose of our study was to investigate the associations of social isolation and loneliness with mortality in a representative national sample of older men and

Chris Howse, the principal solicitor at the Whittlesea Community Legal Service, was instrumental in getting the coroner to investigate the cluster.

"All women were from the South Asian community and there was evidence of isolation with respect to every single one of them," Mr Howse said.

"The implication is that women are newly arrived, they're isolated and have few friends.

"There is the suggestion with respect to some of those deaths that family violence was in the background."

Mr Howse was instrumental in getting the coroner to investigate the cluster.

"Family violence transcends race, despair and isolation transcend race," Mr Howse said.

"Although [Whittlesea's] not ground zero for any of those problems necessarily, we are very close. We vie with the City of Hume."

Vulnerabilities underpinning suicides 'still playing out'

This month the coroner recommended more targeted support for the Indian and Sri Lankan communities in Melbourne's north to prevent further suffering.

"Whittlesea is disproportionately affected by lack of access to mental health and family violence services, compared with other municipalities," Ms Jamieson wrote in her coronial reports.

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Family and intimate violence refers to violence directed toward former or current spouses or partners, dates, elders, and children. Since then, all states have passed similar laws. - a combination of the previous factors that would cause a reasonable person to feel afraid.

both family and placement settings. Social service interventions may consist of casework as well as therapeutic Although this discussion of social service approaches to addressing family violence identifies specific interventions Ability to recognize dangerous and potentially dangerous situations.

She described a combination of family violence, financial control, patriarchal family structures, social isolation, and a lack of understanding of rights as stressors.

"The vulnerabilities that underpin these suicides are still playing out there in that community," Mr Howse said.

Psychiatrist Manjula O'Connor mainly works with South Asian women and domestic violence in her practice.

While family violence is a problem that transcends cultural groups and socio-economic levels, Dr O'Connor said more needed to be done to support newly arrived South Asian women.

Dr O'Connor founded the Australasian Centre for Human Rights and Health, which runs programs using theatre to educate and break down social isolation.

She said the support needed to start before the women left their home countries.

"At the time of the visa, the Government needs to make sure they have the pamphlet in their hand, which gives them all the numbers of the family violence support services and mental health support services," Dr O'Connor said.

She said education about gender relations should be included in settlement programs once they land in Australia.

Local health services also had to be educated in ways to identify and help women of the demographic, Dr O'Connor said.

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Women band together online

The coroner instructed Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to review the services that support South Asian women in Whittlesea.

In a statement, the department said it had already made funding available to a raft of services to "deliver essential mental health supports and practical assistance for CALD communities".

"We've already begun working on a coordinated response across the local area health network, Whittlesea Council and local service providers to ensure the community can access the help they need," a department spokesperson said.

In the meantime, and as word of the crisis spread, South Asian women in Whittlesea rallied on social media, organically breaking down the deadly isolation.

"There was an outpouring on behalf of women — woman-to-woman — saying I'm here 24/7, where there's despair, where you're stuck, where you're vulnerable, just ring me, Facebook me, I don't care what time of the day or night, " Mr Howse said.

"That was the tenor of many, many Facebook posts rebounding around that community. That's what we want to tap in to."

*Priya did not want her real name used for privacy reasons.

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