General News — 01 February 2018

Source: ProBono Australia

Mental health issues among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth has become a national crisis.

Research by Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute found last year that Indigenous youths are more prone to experience mental health issues compared to their non-Indigenous peers.

Indigenous communities around Australia are facing the hard reality, with families being torn apart following heartbreaking youth suicides.

The Kimberley region in WA has long been one of the more troublesome areas, with a shockingly high statistic of youth suicides among its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. In 2017, an inquest into the Kimberley youth suicides found that the suicide rate among Indigenous people was seven times that of the national non-Indigenous population.

The increasing drug and alcohol use, poor housing and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness have been deemed as contributing factors, while staff in the mental health space reportedly have been feeling overwhelmed by the heavy workload and the large number of youths at risk.

Though the Kimberley has become equally known for its beautiful nature as for its high suicide rates, the region is far from the only one combating these challenges in Australia.

Supporting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in Australia is crucial in order to see some positive change. With the increase of drug and alcohol use, the statistics keep getting worse. A growing consequence to this is also the increasing number of youths ending up in Australia’s youth detention centres and prisons.

It seems like a never ending spiral that only keeps getting worse, but there are many people fighting for change.

Leaders from across Australia will come together to speak at the upcoming National Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing Forum in Perth from the 21 to 23 February, to share their thoughts on the growing mental health crisis.

Some of the speakers include Ngaree Ah Kit, assistant minister for suicide prevention, mental health and disabilities and assistant minister for seniors and youth in the NT; Dr Michael Wright from the Telethon Kids Institute; Josie Farrer, member for Kimberley; and Kim Davison from Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation.

They will, together with other presenters, share their stories, case studies and practical strategies on how to change the statistics and improve the mental wellbeing of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Among other things, participants of the event will learn how to develop culturally appropriate service models, engage communities and elders in the design of services, how to develop cross-sector partnerships and how to create accessible pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to seek support.

Speakers will also share their case studies on how to empower the Indigenous youth and strengthen their sense of belonging and pride.

Though the poor mental health statistics show a sad reality, it’s never too late for change. And the change starts with those taking action.

This piece was originally published on ‘ProBono Australia’ 1 Feb 2018.


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