Nyinkka Nyunyu Suicide Beads

In the words of a Waramungu elder: “Sadly some young people think their family doesn’t love them. Even though they do, their family can’t control them. If you’re the mum and dad it’s hard because the kids can put it over you. Some of our youth walk the streets and their mothers can’t control them. But if an outside person speaks to them, they might listen. The youth might think their family don’t love them, because they are speaking to them strongly.”

We have a program to support young people by making beads to wear on their wrists. It has been going for a long time and is for people who get into trouble or feel isolated and lonely. We have been making these beads for quite a few years for the Mental Health Association of Central Australia who initiated this project for the participants of the workshops they run. This need is significant in our own community and we champion this project to raise awareness about these issues.

We want to help kids at risk by making these beads which are special with meaning so they don’t feel they are alone. On the beads we paint someone sitting by the fire talking to them, telling them they always have company and love, saying “we love you and we care for you, just talking them – taking their troubles away.” If we don’t engage those kids and give them company they are in danger of getting too disheartened and frustrated.

On each bracelet, there are three beads. The first and third bead symbolises someone sitting next to the young person. The middle bead is the fire keeping them warm, a home fire, a place of belonging where someone is always there for them, sharing their pain and encouraging them. The beads represents a comforting connection with their ancestors.

When the young person puts on the beads and walks away, it reminds them all the time, that they are not alone. “When they look down at the beads, they remember. They know -someone cares for me - is here for me - all the time and is close, holding me, friends and family. When they don’t have the beads, it’s easier for them to forget they are loved.”

One grandmother explained that for that young person, it’s like carrying a family photo around with them.

We help raise awareness about youth suicide with tourists when we explain the beads to them as part of our cultural centre tours. It has become one of the key moving stories they hear. These tourists then talk to their friends and families back at home making them also aware of the issues for young people in all of our communities.

Inspired by the Mental Health Association of Central Australia’s beads, we have also made a few bracelets to raise awareness and strengthen understanding of Wumpurrarni culture for younger children. These are beads that represent Wumpurrarni identity and values. Two beads are painted with symbols of family/spirit and country/culture. These bracelets also have a middle blank bead for the children to paint in anyway they want to represent themselves- then they too are surrounded with Spirit and Family on one side and Country and Culture on the other.

This program raises awareness of young people at risk and a percentage of our bead profits goes to supporting the suicide prevention workshop activities of the Mental Health Association of Central Australia.

If you or someone you know needs support contact one of the following 24/7 helplines:

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800
headspace: 1800 650 890
ReachOut: Reachout.com