Psychiatrists deeply concerned by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicides

07 July 2020
 
 
 

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Victorian Branch has expressed deep concern for the findings outlined in the recent report on suicides of Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by the Coroners Court of Victoria.

‘Every suicide is a tragedy. The fact that the rates of suicide amongst Victoria’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria are twice that of the state’s non-Indigenous population is saddening and great cause for concern,’ said RANZCP Victorian Branch Chair, Dr Kerryn Rubin.

‘We know that intergenerational trauma, along with discriminatory attitudes and policies in the wider community, continue to negatively affect the mental health and wellbeing of Victoria’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These social determinants are the key drivers behind the disproportionately high suicide rate.

‘We must not allow the prejudice which exists in wider society to permeate mental health services to the detriment of particular groups. The cost of this is lives lost.

‘Practices which support the cultural, social, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of Victoria’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population should be seen as core business in the mental health sector and are key steps to reduce discrimination.’

The new report shows a significant proportion of those who suicided had a diagnosed mental illness, suggesting there is an opportunity for improved outreach and intervention to reduce distress in the community and provide effective, evidence-based treatments which are culturally sensitive.

The RANZCP is firmly committed to supporting the recognition of the cultural identity, practices, customs and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as part of effective mental health care. This includes the development of guidelines on culturally safe and effective practice including culturally secure assessment, developing a joint cultural management plan and involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health workers whenever care is delivered. 

‘We strongly agree with the Coroner’s Court of Victoria that accessible, culturally responsive data is vital to inform actions across the Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention sector,’ Dr Rubin added.

‘Increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander worker participation and all medical staff being trained in culturally secure care would be an important way forward.

‘We need to work together, across all sectors, to ensure Victoria’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population have access to mental health care which recognises culture and community as part of the healing process.’

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

For all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.