Concern for suicide and family violence cluster in Melbourne’s cultural communities

25 September 2020

Recent findings from a Victorian Coronial investigation into a suicide cluster amongst South Asian women in Melbourne’s north is of great concern, according to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Victorian Branch.

The recent investigation by Victorian Coroner Audrey Jamieson has highlighted the vulnerabilities experienced by women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, drawing specific attention to the barriers South Asian women face in accessing supports for their mental health and wellbeing.

Suicide remains a tragic and complex public health issue, further compounded in these communities by a range of social determinants explains RANZCP Victoria Branch Chair, Dr Kerryn Rubin.

‘The Coroner’s findings illustrate a concerning combination of determinants in the lives of these women, including family violence, social isolation and barriers to accessing services, and shows the clear gaps in current services for many people seeking support,’ said Dr Rubin.

‘Research shows a significant relationship between mental ill health, family violence and suicide, with women disporportionately suffering long-term ill health as victims of family violence.

‘These issues are compounded for women from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, who may face additional barriers to service access.

‘While family violence can impact anyone in the community, there remains a major gap in support for immigrant women, and a lack of understanding of the interrelations of culture, family violence and mental ill health.

‘Whilst telehealth has allowed psychiatrists to reach some individuals with a history of family violence, it makes accessing services difficult for women who still live with the perpetrator and may be unable to speak freely, creating a feeling of being trapped and out of options.’

Psychiatrists have a key role to play in caring for people who are experiencing family violence or who are experiencing mental health issues as a result of family violence. Dr Manjula O’Connor, Chair of the RANZCP Family Violence Psychiatry Network explains that access to treatment remains an issue for many within the Victorian community.

‘Gaps in service provision have become more apparent during the pandemic, as reports suggest an alarming increase in family violence presentations,’ said Dr O’Connor

‘Violence in the home may be more difficult to escape due to the lockdown measures in Victoria, with few options for respite from perpetrators leading people to present to the emergency department.

‘Prevention can be achieved by adopting the whole of society approach - education of communities, primary care health providers, policy planners and politicians.

‘The approach should begin early with schools playing a role - increasing resilience of children at schools by providing mental health literacy.

‘Alongside greater support for victims of family violence and early education, there must be more timely collection and reporting of suicide data in order to understand trends and intervene as early as possible where patterns are identified.’

The RANZCP Victorian Branch supports the Coroner’s recommendation regarding the need to identify opportunities to improve access to and engagement with health and wellbeing services, including more accessible, culturally appropriate support services.

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email