Suicide prevention in Coorong

NZ fur seals

It is suggested rural communities have better social networks and connectedness than metropolitan communities. Yet these same communities also face challenges, particularly economic and environmental changes.

ABC News recently featured an article by Natalie Whiting (1), which highlighted the plight of Coorong fishers. “Communities around the Coorong and Lower Lakes in South Australia are being pushed to breaking point by a booming population of long-nosed fur seals.”

New Zealand fur seals, whose numbers have grown to 100,000, are undermining the practices of local professional fishing crews by attacking their nets and ripping the fish out. This not only jeopardises the catch but also damages the tackle.

Concerned residents are worried about the health effects the situation is having on locals.

Tracy Hill runs Coorong Wild Seafood with her husband Glen. She has observed the stress many fishermen are feeling. She said that one of the problems is that, “Fisherman are a bit like farmers. They don’t like talking about that sort of thing.”

Juleene Richards has been involved in the fishing industry for more than 50 years. She said, “I’m very worried about people. Some people just can’t cope these days when the pressure gets too much for them.”

Coorong District Council Mayor Neville Haensch said the community felt powerless about the seals. He said the seals not only pose a danger to the environment but threaten the livelihoods of families in our community. A tragic consequence was felt in the Tailem Bend community where there were three suicides in a six-week period.

Suicide is a complex issue and despite the best intentions of governments, organisations, businesses and the general public there are no clear solutions.

Suicide is rarely the result of a single event or factor but can be understood as a complex interplay of biological, psychological and environmental factors that leave a person feeling desperate and hopeless about life.

There are many circumstances that may cause someone to consider suicide. It is facing any problem that doesn’t have an obvious solution, it is having your livelihood threatened, it is feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted, it is not being able to think clearly, it is being overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation, it is believing that you are alone and no one can help or understand what you are going through, it is the conviction that there is no way forward.

Suicide prevention is not something we can walk away from. Our motivation must be the preservation of life.

The response of the Coorong community to these tragic circumstances in commendable.

In an article by Claire Campbell (2) in the Murray Valley Standard, she says, “Coorong District Council is holding a series of suicide prevention and bereavement support community forums in Tailem Bend, Meningie and Tintinara.”

“The forum really is as a direct response to the very unfortunate spate of suicides in Tailem Bend,” she said.

“The community is grieving and asking questions about how this has happened and how so many have happened.”

“We really want to dispel the myth around suicide in the community, we’re not talking about mental health we are really targeting suicide prevention.”

She said the council was being responsive to the situation, trying to connect communities and create a stronger future.


(1) ABC News, Natalie Whiting, “Coorong Fishers: Health concerns raised as the industry fights seals to stay afloat” (August 8, 2015)

(2) The Murray Valley Standard, Claire Campbell, “Suicide prevention in Coorong” (August 19, 2015)

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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