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Stolen Generations Elder bravely reveals mental health demons in rallying cry for community support

Jarred Cross -

A stolen generation survivor has revealed his own mental health demons as he pleads for his community to rally around those with suicidal thoughts.

Uncle George Ellis is a "third-generation dispossessed person", his grandmother brought to Sydney from Tennant creek as a child, his mother growing up at Cootamundra Girls Home and father at Kinchela Boy's Home.

Uncle Ellis was taken to Marella Mission in Kellyville as a boy.

A pre-recorded video saw him recount how his brother had taken his own life and the impact it had on friends and family.

Speaking at the Cox Inall Ridgeway Connect, Reach Out, Heal our Way suicide prevention campaign launch on Wiradjuri land Tuesday, Uncle Ellis spoke of his plight and decision to make a change.

"I never thought I'd say this out to people, I'm actually seeing a psychologist," Uncle Ellis said.

"And that's made a big difference in addressing issues that I've had."

Uncle Ellis shared his lived experience and its impact on life, parenting and his own father's "big decline" later in life from similar tolls from dispossession.

"I've commonly been asked what am I doing to change things for myself, what am I doing to change this, to change that," he said.

"At times it would have been nice to hear what can I do to help you?"

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overrepresented in suicide statistics, accounting for 5.5 percent of all deaths compared to 1.9 percent of non-Indigenous Australians according to the Governments Institute of Health and Welfare's most recent reporting period.

The CIR campaign is a collective prevention effort to empower community with tools to drive conversation, raise awareness and highlight grassroots work in Aboriginal communities across the state funded by the NSW Ministry of Health under the Towards Zero Suicides initiative.

Dubbo, in Western NSW, was chosen to host the launch.

Panel discussion with Aboriginal community leaders and health experts at the launch of Heal Our Way.

Credit: Brycen Horne

Community leaders, health professionals and support organisations attended the event including a locally-based representative from Healing Works.

Healing Works chief executive and Kamilaroi man Dean Bayliss said self-determination had to be led by the community to get suicide numbers down.

We just can't turn up say, hey, there are workshop or this is going to happen in your community today, it will never work," he said.

"Our people need to be a driving force.

"We need to build a capacity of our people to be competent in dealing with suicide."

Experiences of loss, grief and misunderstandings surrounding the issue were shared at the launch before panellists discussed drug and alcohol abuse, the ongoing impacts of the stolen generation, strain on health workers in regional areas, services available and tips for reaching out.

Artworks inspired by personal accounts and a comic strip encouraging dialogue between family members were presented along with cultural ceremonies, yarning circles and lunch.

13 YARN - 13 92 76


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