Aboriginal mental health in crisis

Joe KobierPress Release

“Clearly Australia’s mental health system is failing Aboriginal people, with Aboriginal communities devastated by high rates of suicide and poorer mental health outcomes. Poor mental health in Aboriginal communities often stems from historic dispossession, racism and a poor sense of connection to self and community. It is compounded by people’s lack of access to meaningful and ongoing education and employment. Drug and alcohol related conditions are also commonly identified in persons with poor mental health.

NACCHO Chairperson, Matthew Cooke

Today’s roundtable convened by the Federal government is a welcome step toward acknowledging the ongoing suicide crisis in Aboriginal communities and the need for an urgent concentrated effort to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people and address the transgenerational trauma impacting on our communities.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chairperson, Matthew Cooke said while there was no quick fix for the crisis, an integrated strategy led by Aboriginal community controlled health services is a good starting point.

He said the recently released National Mental Health Commission Review recommended the establishment of mental health and social and emotional wellbeing teams in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, linked to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander specialist mental health services.

“Clearly Australia’s mental health system is failing Aboriginal people, with Aboriginal communities devastated by high rates of suicide and poorer mental health outcomes.

“Poor mental health in Aboriginal communities often stems from historic dispossession, racism and a poor sense of connection to self and community.

“It is compounded by people’s lack of access to meaningful and ongoing education and employment. Drug and alcohol related conditions are also commonly identified in persons with poor mental health.

“None of these can be fixed overnight but we can’t ignore the problems. We are on the brink of losing another generation of Aboriginal people to suicide, poor health and substance abuse.”

Mr Cooke said the answers lay with Aboriginal people.

“What we do know is the solution must be driven by Aboriginal leaders and communities – a model that is reaping great rewards in the Aboriginal Community Controlled health sector.

“It must be a community based approach, backed up by governments of all levels.

“I commend the Government for convening the roundtable and welcome the inclusion of NACCHO and its members to developing the solutions with Government as an integral element to the success of any strategy.

“We can’t waste a day. We are losing our sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters. Every life that is lost to suicide is a life that should have been saved.

National Mental Health Commission Review recommended a target to reduce suicides and suicide attempts by fifty per cent over the next decade in the general population.

Hence, any strategy developed needs to include a specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide reduction target aligned to broader strategy.”