Aboriginal health leader calls on Aboriginal communities, families and government agencies to talk openly and honestly about so called mental health issues?
Mr Justin Mohamed, Chair of NACCHO representing over 150 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations throughout Australia has used the launch of this weeks Mental Health Week and its theme “Whoever you are and wherever you live, you’re not alone” to call on all communities and family members to make sure that their members are not alone. He also called on all levels of government to support Aboriginal people and organisations with Aboriginal community control of specific Aboriginal mental health programs
Building on the current theme Mr Mohamed went on to explain;
Whoever you are the engagement of Aboriginal people with mental health services has traditionally been fraught with difficulty. Even the expression “mental health” is a major barrier for people to seek help and support, in fact most of our members refer to this issue as social and emotional well being. The stigma and stereotyping that all contribute to the limited use of current mental health services are other major barriers
Wherever you live geographic isolation, a lack of culturally appropriate services, a lack of Aboriginal staff within available services, limited training of mental health service staff regarding Aboriginal issues, also contribute to the limited use of current mental health services by Aboriginal people. The lack of Aboriginal people in trained psychologist, counseling roles compounds the issue.
Your not alone is a key factor where we need to encourage community members to talk with family and friends about their social and emotional wellbeing issues to restore their connections to community, family, the land and their spirituality, because research has shown those things underpin wellbeing.
Mr Mohamed said a key principle of the Close the Gap campaign has been that Aboriginal people should be part of policies and program to improve the health and wellbeing of our own people.
As an example NACCHO is currently working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Advisory Group and the Menzies School to develop the nation’s first Indigenous Suicide Prevention Strategy making sure that it is coherent and comprehensive strategy and backed by a strong evidence base.
The Advisory Group, chaired by Tom Calma, has also provided guidance on how the government can most effectively invest the $6 million in funding over four years committed to reduce Indigenous suicide under the Taking Action to Tackle Suicide package.
Mr Mohamed said we’ve long known that rates of suicide in Aboriginal communities are higher than the wider Australian population. But we’re much less clear about why this is the case. Each life lost to suicide reminds us of the need to better identify the causes and implement effective prevention strategies.
According to a study from Diego de Leo, Griffith University released last month between 1994 and 2006, the rate of suicide in Indigenous people averaged 25.7 per 100,000 people – about 70% higher than in non-Indigenous Australians. Although rates have been decreasing in recent year’s suicide among Indigenous people remains disproportionately high relative to non-Indigenous Australians. As a social issue, suicide is entwined with tangible and intangible influences of gender, ethnicity, connectedness, and mental and physical well-being.
But the study concluded there are also unique aspects of Indigenous society and culture that offer hope for the future in reducing the burden of suicide mortality. Indigenous society promotes social cohesion, extended familial ties and spontaneous support, which can all lower the risk of suicide. After all, suicide was almost unknown in traditional Aboriginal society.
“We hope that by NACCHO Affiliate and Members promoting the so called Mental Health week and its theme “Whoever you are and wherever you live, you’re not alone” we can make our communities and the Government agencies more responsive to the broader issues around the many wellbeing issues of our people” Mr Mohamed said
NACCHO media contact: Colin Cowell 0401 331 251 email@example.com