NACCHO Aboriginal health media release for Mental Health Week Oct 2012

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 media@naccho.org.au

One comment on “NACCHO Aboriginal health media release for Mental Health Week Oct 2012

  1. beyondblue CEO says high suicide rates in Indigenous communities tragic and unacceptable

    On the eve of World Mental Health Day, beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO has expressed deep concern about the high suicide rates experienced by Indigenous Australians.

    “Not only is this a tragic situation, it’s absolutely unacceptable. Research shows that the suicide rate in Indigenous people is about 70 per cent higher than in non-Indigenous Australians. So it’s obvious that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not getting the information, services and support they need…and it’s time something was done about it

    “We know that untreated depression is a risk factor for suicide. If people don’t know the signs and symptoms of depression, and that it’s an illness which can be treated, then they’re not going to seek help. Therefore, they remain undiagnosed, untreated and at greater risk of suicide,” she said.

    To help address the situation, beyondblue, in association with the Lowitja Institute, is hosting a Roundtable on World Mental Health Day, 10 October, to develop a strategy on the best ways to disseminate key mental health messages amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

    The Roundtable will bring together community members, media representatives, service providers, peak bodies and researchers from across Australia.

    Ms Carnell said she is pleased beyondblue has been able to host such a diverse and experienced group of people who share the common aim of developing a practical and culturally-relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social and Emotional Wellbeing Strategy.

    “We recognise and respect the diversity amongst this wide population group. As a result, we’ve brought together a broad range of people to help us work out the best way to get information about depression and anxiety to all Indigenous Australians, wherever they live, across Australia.

    “National data suggests that two-thirds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults report having good mental health, however one-third reports high to very high levels of psychological distress which is more than twice the rate for non-Indigenous Australians. Again, that’s not acceptable,” Ms Carnell said.

    The aims of the Roundtable are to identify and develop:
    . the best ways of getting mental health information to Indigenous people
    . key messages and culturally-relevant information resources
    . the best ways to reduce stigma around mental health problems and to promote
    awareness and ways to get help.

    Please note Mark Saunders from NACCHO secretariat Canberra will be attending