Australia

Shannay tried to take her life as a teen. She never wants anyone else to suffer in silence

This article contains references to suicide/self-harm and contains references to a deceased Aboriginal person.
Shannay Holmes was consumed by grief at age 11 when her big brother died.
That sadness, prolonged and throbbing, triggered her to try and take her own life some years later.

“At 11, that was my first big loss, so you don’t know how to deal with that grief,” the Dharawal and Darug woman said.

Shannay’s brother, Josh, died from pneuomonia and glandular fever when he was 19. His death had a major impact on Shannay, who was 11 at the time. Source: Supplied / Shannay Holmes

“It is one of those, ‘push it down, pack it in and then move on with your everyday life’. But trauma doesn’t just wait for you, it comes up in everyday life.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die of suicide at more than double the rate of the general population. According to 2020 data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 5.5 per cent of First Nations people die of suicide, compared to 1.9 per cent of non-First Nations People.

It was only when Ms Holmes found herself in an acute mental health ward that the tide shifted on how she would treat her crippling mental health. Leaning on the “great support system” of her mother, teacher and peers, she was able to overcome her battles.
And Ms Holmes wants to see more of her community lifted up, with the right support, too.

Now, new data has revealed that her experience of leaning on those she trusts for support is not only uncommon but encouraged for those who need it most.

Are Australians happy?

A national report released on Monday to mark World Mental Health day has revealed one in two Australians have reached out for mental health support, and 90 per cent of those felt better afterwards.

The research, conducted by Mental Health Australia, surveyed more than 2,500 Australians aged from one year to over 80 across different states in the country.

According to the report, two-thirds of Australians have felt happy over the past three months, citing the support and love of their friend or partner, as well as socialising and physical activity as reasons for their happiness.

A graphic that has scorecards of people's mental health

First Nations and LGBTIQ+ Australians have rated their mental health lower than that of the general public, according to new data released on Monday. Source: SBS News

When asking people to self-rate their mental health on a scale from zero (poor mental health) to 10 (excellent mental health), the overall score for Australians was 6.7.

But for First Nations people, that average dropped to 5.2, and LGBTIQ+ Australians self-scored an average of 5.7.

While Mental Health Australia CEO Leanne Beagley was optimistic about the overall happiness of Australians, the mental health levels of priority groups like First Nations and LGBTIQ+ people have left her “very concerned”.

“This report tells us that informal support — and by that I mean, not a psychologist or a counsellor you’re seeing but actually people in your network — are incredibly important,” she said.
“This is a call to action for us about strengthening community and informal supports, recognising how important community is to people.”

Mental Health Australia’s report als found that Indigenous Australians who accessed support experienced barriers such as fear of discrimination, previous negative experiences, financial barriers, and lack of access to support services in their local area.

Targeted First Nations support for all

In a bid to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Shannay has launched the Heal Your Way project, funded by NSW Health’s Zero Suicide initiative.
Ms Holmes said Heal Your Way provides resources for friends of First Nations people, both targeted Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to be better allies in the way they support those who are struggling with their mental health.
“Let’s stop putting this in a category that we need to be ashamed of having these conversations, but also shining on the light of why people go through this,” she said.
“You don’t have to be a psychologist, you don’t have to be a mental health professional. The important thing about this campaign is that it’s for everyone.”
Readers seeking crisis support can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged up to 25). More information and support with mental health is available at and on 1300 22 4636.
supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers seeking support can also contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, visit or find an . Resources for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can be found at .
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