Urgent need for mental health services for Indigenous people in custody


 Beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO has commended research published in the Medical Journal of Australia today, which found there was an urgent need to develop and resource culturally relevant mental health services for indigenous Australians in custody.

The study found that 73 per cent of Indigenous men and 86 per cent of Indigenous women in prison had a mental disorder, compared with the 20 per cent prevalence in the Australian community.


“We believe that an early intervention approach is essential.  Many of the mental health issues that lead to incarceration need to be addressed during the formative years. As a result, many of the programs we are already funding for young Indigenous people are designed to build resilience and improve self esteem,” Ms Carnell said. 

“We recognise that mental health problems are more common and severe in Indigenous Australians and we have already spent around $2.5 million on research into depression and anxiety in this population group.  In November, we will be announcing more research grants totalling $1 million to fund research into how we can improve the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We recognise that this barely scratches the surface and much more work needs to be done to help these communities now,” she said.

beyondblue is already working with young Indigenous people in programs such as:

Rites of Passage
which is an innovative early intervention program which involves small groups of young aboriginal people with depression and/or anxiety (aged 8 to 16) ) working intensively with an Aboriginal youth worker to create positive peer relationships, increase pride in and knowledge of Aboriginal culture, build skills and learn about health and social issues.

The Indigenous Hip Hop Projects (IHHP) is a national community arts company which works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in urban, rural and remote communities across Australia.  IHHP use hip hop and beat boxing to engage and educate children and adolescents, and teach them the value of help seeking for mental health problems. Over the last three years, more than 10,000 young people have been through the program.

“This year, beyondblue is also working with The Lowitja Institute and other Indigenous community groups to organise a roundtable to identify and address the most urgent mental health issues in their communities. This is part of beyondblue’s ongoing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategic Framework to be implemented over the next three years. We are strongly committed to working with the communities, the health sector and all tiers of government to get better mental health outcomes for Indigenous Australians,” Ms Carnell said.

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