Suicide /self-harm-risk reducing effects of an Aboriginal art program for Aboriginal prisoners

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Rasmussen, MK, Donoghue, DA & Sheehan, NW 2018, 'Suicide /self-harm-risk reducing effects of an Aboriginal art program for Aboriginal prisoners', Advances in Mental Health, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 141-151.

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Objective: Aboriginal art is an effective, culture-specific therapy for Aboriginal people. This may have important implications for Aboriginal prisoners at risk of suicide/self-harm. This project aimed to evaluate the potential positive effects of Aboriginal art activities on the suicide/self-harm risk behaviours of Aboriginal prisoners.
Method: A retrospective audit was undertaken of data related to the incidence of suicide/self-harm risk assessments for a cohort of male Aboriginal prisoners (N = 335) incarcerated in a single Australian prison between 11th December 2008 and 22nd December 2010.
Results: Of the 335 Aboriginal prisoners, 108 (32.2%) attended the Aboriginal art program at least once and 227 did not. Univariate analyses of the sample characteristics showed that those who attended the Aboriginal art program were less likely to have a history of psychiatric illness (10.2% versus 19.8%), but more likely to have a history of violent offences (90.7% versus 67.4%) and more likely to have presented with grief/loss issues at receptions (24.1% versus 14.5%). Univariate analyses using binomial regression showed that both suicide/self-harm history and number of days attending Aboriginal art was associated with the incidence rate of suicide/self-harm risk assessments. Controlling for a history of suicide self-harm, we found that each day (and additional day) of attendance to the Aboriginal art program reduced the incidence rate of suicide/self-harm assessment by a factor of 0.81 (CI 95%: 0.70–0.95).
Discussion: This study provides some evidence of the protective effect of engaging in Aboriginal art for reducing suicide or selfharm behaviours for Aboriginal prisoners. Clinical implications and recommendations for future studies are discussed.

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