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03 Dec 2018

Mental health in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population must be tackled urgently if any progress is to be made on closing the health and life expectancy gaps, the AMA Indigenous Health Report Card 2018 warns.

Suicide was the second leading cause of death for Indigenous males in 2017, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and the rate of suicide deaths in the Indigenous population has increased by 21 per cent between 2008 and 2017.

“In short, the suicide and the mental health gaps had likely only increased since 2011, and must be addressed if the health and life expectancy gap is to close,” the Report Card says.

“The [Closing the Gap] Strategy needs to rebuilt with mental health prioritised alongside chronic disease. Without such an additional mental health focus, a merely ‘refreshed’ and underfunded Closing the Gap Strategy will not only be remiss in failing to target a major contributor to health inequality, it will not reflect the evidence base.”

Trauma and intergenerational trauma significantly affects social and emotional wellbeing and mental health across the population, the Report Card says.

“About 17,150 members of the Stolen Generations are still alive today, and they experience much higher levels of adversity in relation to almost all health and welfare outcomes, much of which relates to untreated and unhealed trauma,” it said, citing a 2018 report from the AIHW and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation.

The Report Card endorsed Recommendation Four of the 2018 Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee’s Ten-Year Review, which called on Australian governments to commit to making Indigenous mental health a national priority in the refreshed Strategy, and to systematically cost, fund, and implement the National Strategic Framework for Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing.

“Developing [these] plans was an important activity, but it is now time to turn the page,” the Report Card says.

“The next 10 years of the rebuilt Closing the Gap Strategy must be about providing equitable funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, including for the systematic implementation of the plans.

“It’s time to roll up our collective sleeves and deliver on them.”

MARIA HAWTHORNE

 


Published: 03 Dec 2018