NACCHO Aboriginal Health : Duplication or what ? 40 Mental Health Services for one community , 95 in an other

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“At one point there had been 95 different mental health services operating in the Pilbara town of Roebourne.

That had overwhelmed the community and prevented people from seeking support

We need our people who are already on the ground to be trained and supported to adequately deal with suicides in their communities,”

And we need more 24 hour services. Aboriginal people do not die by suicide between nine and five when services are open. They need to be able to access support around the clock.”

Michelle Nelson-Cox from the Aboriginal Health Council of WA

In one community there were more than 40 separate mental health services for a population of just 200 people, and most of their work was focused on three or four chronic mental health clients.”

 Dr Tracy Westerman 

 “There is a humanitarian crisis in this affluent nation, a catastrophic, systematic crisis: suicide accounts for more than 5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths. It’s a staggering, harrowing statistic. 

The contributing factors are many and intertwined, underwritten by the kind of acute poverty, disadvantage and marginalisation that should make no sense in one of the world’s wealthiest nations.”

The suicide rate in Australia is a humanitarian crisis we can no longer ignore by

PHOTO : There is no greater legacy that any government can have than to prioritise and invest in the improving of lives, the changing of lives, the saving of lives.’ Photograph: Fairfax Media/Getty Images

Read 111 NACCHO Mental Health Articles here

Read 84 NACCHO Suicide Prevention Articles here

Duplication of mental health services in a number of Aboriginal communities is rendering many of them ineffective, according to organisations giving evidence to a Legislative Assembly committee in Perth the ABC reports

The Education and Health Standing Committee is examining Aboriginal youth suicides in Western Australia.

It has travelled around the state hearing submissions from a number of mental health service providers.

Dr Tracy Westerman runs a private company that provides psychological services to Aboriginal people.

She told the committee that in one community there were more than 40 separate mental health services for a population of just 200 people, and most of their work was focused on three or four chronic mental health clients.

“The community don’t know of the services and what they’re capable of providing to them,” Dr Westerman said.

“And the services are often not aware of each other. In reality the services are serving the same families again and again.”

She said better coordination and leadership was required.

“We need to go into really affected communities and look at where the needs are and where the gaps are and then develop models that we know have been effective in other communities,” Dr Westerman said.

Michelle Nelson-Cox from the Aboriginal Health Council of WA raised similar concerns.

She said at one point there had been 95 different mental health services operating in the Pilbara town of Roebourne.

That had overwhelmed the community and prevented people from seeking support, she said.

Ms Nelson-Cox told the committee the fly-in, fly-out nature of many services and the short contracts they were given often made them ineffective.

She said instead, communities needed to be consulted on what they needed.

“We need our people who are already on the ground to be trained and supported to adequately deal with suicides in their communities,” she said.

“And we need more 24 hour services. Aboriginal people do not die by suicide between nine and five when services are open. They need to be able to access support around the clock.”

The committee hearings wrap up today.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

The suicide rate in Australia is a humanitarian crisis we can no longer ignore

As I begin to write this piece, I have been informed of a former refugee who has taken his life, of a mother who has taken her life, of a young Aboriginal woman who has taken her life, of a former inmate who has taken his life, of a newly arrived migrant who has taken her life. Each of these individuals was aged in their 20s.

Suicide takes twice as many Australian lives as all other forms of violence combined, including homicides, military deaths and the road toll. The suicide toll should be the nation’s most pressing issue – the issue of our time. But alas it is not.

There is a humanitarian crisis in this affluent nation, a catastrophic, systematic crisis: suicide accounts for more than 5% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths. It’s a staggering, harrowing statistic. In fact in my estimations, because of under-reporting issues, suicide accounts for 10% of Indigenous deaths. The contributing factors are many and intertwined, underwritten by the kind of acute poverty, disadvantage and marginalisation that should make no sense in one of the world’s wealthiest nations.

But they are not limited to socioeconomic factors. From within the cesspool of this situational trauma – this narrative of victimhood – there has manifest a constancy of traumas – multiple, composite, aggressive, complex traumas.

We need more than just generalised counselling, but this last resort is the first resort. Resilience selling is part of this generalised counselling where we beg the victim to adjust their behaviours – but how far and for how long without hope on the horizon?

The factors that can culminate in suicide are the most preventable of the various destructive behaviours that impact on families and communities. There are many ways forward.

A national inquiry or royal commission into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides – and in fact into all suicides – is long overdue. We cannot live in the silences and dangerously internalise this tragedy. I have travelled to hundreds of homeland communities and the people who are losing their loved ones are crying out to be heard, they are screaming.

Despite all the good work done by many in saving lives, the suicide toll, particularly for the most elevated risk groups, is on the increase. Without the deep examination that a royal commission will provide, the suicide prevention space will remain inauthentic – hostage to carpetbaggers and the ignorant.

Identifying trauma in any given population, including among LGBQTI people, former inmates, foster children, the homeless, the chronically impoverished, newly arrived migrants, culturally and linguistically diverse migrants and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, we start with behavioural observations and proceed with the opportunity for the individual to tell their story. People need people, 24/7.

Our capacity to listen is an imperative and must be achieved without judgment, for often redemption is needed: forgiveness in addition to sympathy and empathy. These skills do not come easy to everyone but they are vital in the suicide prevention space, in trauma counselling, in restorative therapies, in navigating people to a positive self.

There is no greater legacy that any government can have than to prioritise and invest in the improving of lives, the changing of lives, the saving of lives.

  • Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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