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New survey highlights impact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health conditions

28 April 2016

The National Mental Health Commission welcomes today’s release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-2015 (NATSISS).  This survey provides a range of information about the lives and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including for the first time those with self-reported mental health conditions.

Professor Pat Dudgeon, National Mental Health Commissioner and Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health (NATSILMH), said: 

“The survey provides further evidence of the greater support needs of Indigenous people living with mental health conditions, and their need for better access to mental health and support services. In particular, it highlights the need for integrated services that can work with both physical and mental health issues, and connect them to smoking and drug use reduction programs, as well as break down isolation, and provide support with education, employment and housing.

"The survey has implications for the Primary Health Networks (PHNs) and a recovery-oriented, consumer centred mental health system as it relates to Indigenous people. There is also implications for the National Disability Insurance Scheme as it works to support Indigenous people with a psychosocial disability. All these need to take into account the greater needs of Indigenous people with mental health conditions as they work in our communities.”

Professor Dudgeon continued: “At the national level, and as the National Mental Health Commission recommended in its 2014 National Review Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities, dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health planning is required to meet these additional needs as well as to ensure a consumer focused mental health system that works effectively with cultural differences.

“We also need Indigenous mental health leadership at regional and state levels. The Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration was developed by NATSILMH to provide a framework for Indigenous leadership in mental health and suicide prevention, and could be used to guide these efforts.”

In closing, Professor Dudgeon noted that while further analysis was required, the NATSISS results are likely to confirm a continuing ‘mental health gap’ - measurable across several indicators of mental health - between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

The full publication is available on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.

Representatives from the National Mental Health Commission will be attending the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Conference 5 - 6 May in Alice Springs. 

"Even the most disadvantaged Australians should be able to lead a 'contributing life,' whatever that means for them and this simple goal will be our touchstone and yardstick."

Chair Prof Allan Fels AO
National Mental Health Commission

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