Parliament talks to focus on Indigenous mental health

22 July, 2015

Reducing mental illness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be the focus of high level talks between government, mental health experts and Indigenous leaders at Parliament House on July 22nd 2015.

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley and Assistant Minister for Health, Fiona Nash will address the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health, Social and Emotional Wellbeing and Suicide Prevention Roundtable.

"The focus of the roundtable will be on how we can best reduce the incidence of mental health conditions and suicide, and improve social and emotional wellbeing among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," Minister Scullion said.

"Indigenous health remains this nation's most confronting health challenge with mental health issues in need of urgent attention. We want this meeting to develop some clear, positive strategic direction."

Minister for Health Sussan Ley said she was particularly concerned that suicide death rates in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders population were twice that of non-Indigenous people living in the same jurisdictions.

"Age-specific death rates from suicide were highest for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-34 years, around three times the rate for non-Indigenous Australians of the same age," Minister Ley said.

"Successive governments have invested heavily in culturally appropriate health programs for Indigenous Australians and, while we have had some success with improvements in life expectancy, especially with the decline in child death rates, the incidence of suicide is a continued concern.

"This meeting will provide a better understanding as we all work toward a coherent, national approach that more rapidly tackles these issues," Minister Ley said.

Minister Nash said alcohol and drug use also contributed to mental illness and suicide tendencies and it is for this reason she had directed the Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drugs to prioritise prevention strategies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people where alcohol and drugs can destroy communities.

"With the calibre of participants at this roundtable I am confident we will come up with some ideas that will increase the pace of change," Minister Nash said.

Discussion at the meeting will include findings and recommendations outlined in the National Review of Mental Health Services and Programmes conducted by National Mental Health Commission.

The need to focus on improving mental health and suicide prevention outcomes for Indigenous Australians has been identified as a key area of focus in the Review and the meeting will assist in the ongoing national plan for mental health reform.