Rural Sector News Suicide — 14 September 2016

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 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.

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.

This article first appeared on ‘ABC‘ on 12 September 2016.

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