MENTAL health advocate Jeff Kennett and former athlete Senator Nova Peris have unveiled a campaign to combat depression in the indigenous community, saying racism is continuing to cause mental health issues for many Aboriginal people.
MR Kennett, the chairman of charity beyondblue, says a survey of more than 1000 non-indigenous Australians showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to face widespread racism.
“This research shows that racism in Australia is still common and that many people engage in racist behaviour,” he said.
“Racism, like any form of discrimination, leads to distress, which in turn can lead to depression and anxiety.”
Chief executive of beyondblue Georgie Harman says many people don’t realise when they are discriminating against indigenous people and don’t understand the effect it can have.
“This can be very damaging to their mental health,” she said.
“The best way to reduce harm caused by subtle racism is to stop it, and if you see it happening, call it.”
The survey found a third of Australians believe indigenous Australians are “sometimes a bit lazy“.
Almost one third believe indigenous citizens should behave more like other Australians.
And more than 40 per cent believe they are given unfair advantages by the government.
The survey results also showed one in five Australians would move away if an indigenous Australian sat nearby, while one in 10 say they would tell a joke in the pub about an indigenous Australian.
Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that indigenous Australians are twice as likely to die by suicide as non-indigenous Australians, and are almost three times more likely to experience psychological distress.
This article first appeared on ‘The Australian’ on 29 July 2014.