HEALTH

Experts Call For Indigenous Mental Health Overhaul

"In terms of Kalgoorlie, the nation should weep".

12/10/2016 4:55 PM AEDT | Updated 12/10/2016 4:59 PM AEDT
NEW! HIGHLIGHT AND SHARE
Highlight text to share via Facebook and Twitter
Fairfax
Mourners pay their respects at a tribute to dead teen Elijah Doughty in August

The Federal government is being urged to radically rethink Indigenous mental health policy and place Aboriginal people at the centre of care, amid record levels of suicide in remote regions.

A major new report by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) also calls for an effectiveness evaluation of all Indigenous suicide prevention programs, amid evidence the most are failing, The ABC reports.

The report, which it is understood has been handed to the Prime Minister but not released publicly, comes as Health Minister Sussan Ley prepares to chair a roundtable on suicide prevention in the WA Kimberly region.

Telethon Kids Institute
The indigenous suicide rate measured by postcode between 2001-2012. This map shows the Indigenous suicide rate per 100,000 people per year.

ATSISPEP is co-chaired by West Australian professor Pat Dudgeon and former social justice commissioner Tom Calma.

"I would personally like to see reform in the way they fund indigenous suicide prevention, and mental health. Often it isn't empowering or partnering with communities in a good way," Prof. Dudgeon told the Huffington Post Australia.

"In most towns and urban settings you have got Aboriginal controlled community health organisations, but they need to be empowered and funded and supported to take on some mental health and suicide prevention issues."

It needs to be a multi level approach, and also a multi level approach in how we deal with suicide and mental health issues that puts Aboriginal community control at the centreProfessor Pat Dudgeon

She said a number of Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander programs were not funded, or had 'stop, start' funding.

Prof. Dudgeon also said mainstream health services could not be let off the hook.

"They need to also be a part of the offerings to any community, but they need to be culturally competent," she said.

Suicide rates among Aboriginal people in remote Western Australia are among the worst in the world, amid fears they are set to double by the end of the decade, a report published in the Medical Journal of Australia in June found.

In the Kimberly region rates of Indigenous suicide are almost seven times the national average.

But it's not a problem isolated to the Kimberly.

In 2015, more than 150 Aboriginal people took their lives -- the highest figure ever recorded nationally.

In terms of Kalgoorlie, the nation should weepGerry Georgatos

The state this week was faced with tragedy after a 37-year-old mother of three committed suicide at Kalgoorlie, a WA Goldfields town riven by tension following the death of 14-year-old Elijah Doughty last year.

The teen died after he was allegedly struck by a ute while riding a stolen motorbike police have linked to the accused, a 55-year-old man who has since been charged with manslaughter.

On Monday a woman, believed to be a relative of Doughty's, took her own life at the site of the teenager's death.

In an interview conducted ahead of news about the ATSISPEP report, suicide prevention researcher Gerry Georgatos told the Huffington Post Australia a ground-up overhaul of suicide prevention is needed.

He said Monday's death was the sixth suicide in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder region since November last year.

"We should be looking, first and foremost, at the unusually high rates of self harm, the unusually high rates of attempted suicide and doing everything we can in terms of various reforms," he said.

"It's not happening. Not only in the Goldfields, which is Kalgoorlie, Leonora, Laverton. It's a national issue."

Kalgoorlie doctor Christine Stokes told the Huffington Post Australia state and federal government decisions to redirect health funding over the past year, and the subsequent closing of facilities, was having an affect on the community.

The holes in the safety net are getting biggerDr Christine Stokes

"There's no real places where people feel like they can drop in, have a chat, discuss their situation, discuss ideas and feel supported," Dr Stokes told HuffPost Australia on Wednesday.

"There's been a gradual erosion of all the grassroots services, and the closure last year of the maternal infant health service was a great loss.

"There doesn't seem to be an understanding that those intimate grass roots services provide more than just health care... they provide personal support, it's a place to go, people know they are knowledgable and there are trained people who can help them with many things."

In mid September Kalgoorlie was torn apart amid tensions surrounding Elijah's death. A house linked to the man charged with the teenager's death was set on fire in September.

In late August a dozen police were injured and several people arrested following a protest over Elijah's death. Demonstrators tried to force their way into the local courthouse, which was placed in lockdown, while five police cars were damaged, as well as a local business.

The riots happened after a series of racially charged posts appeared on Facebook.

Two Facebook pages were reportedly shut down after being criticised for driving tensions ahead of the riot.

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

More On This Topic

Advertisement
Advertisement