Authors: Pat Dudgeon
Event: 2015 TheMHS Conference
Subject: slides, Community Based Mental Health Interventions - The National Empowerment Project
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: This presentation will provide a brief overview of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and will describe promising initiatives such as the National Empowerment Project which the presenter and others have been involved with since 2012. In response to the high levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide rates, the National Empowerment Project (NEP), an Aboriginal-led initiative, undertook research with eleven Aboriginal communities. At the core of this project are concepts of community ownership and valuing culture. The mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has become a critical issue. The data suggests an entrenched, perhaps worsening, mental health crisis. This is seen in reported high rates of psychological distress, hospitalisation for mental health conditions and most critically, increasing suicide rates. It is timely that the mental health professions have begun to engage with Indigenous people in ways that will assist recovery and cultural maintenance. In recent times, the emergence of Indigenous paradigms is seen as an important way forward.
Amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people there is widespread agreement that the concept of mental health comes more from an illness or clinical perspective and its focus is more on the individual and their level of functioning in their environment. An alternative perspective is a social and emotional well-being concept, that is broader than this and recognizes the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community, and how these affect the individual.
The domains and guiding principles that characterise social and emotional wellbeing are outlined and situated within a framework that places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander world-views and culture as central. This is an important element in the National Empowerment Project.
Professor Pat Dudgeon is from the Bardi people of the Kimberley area in Western Australia.
She is a psychologist and research fellow at the School of Indigenous Studies at the University of Western Australia. Her areas of research includes Indigenous mental health and social and emotional wellbeing, and suicide prevention.
She is a member of the executive board of the Australian Indigenous Psychologist’s Association; the Co-chair of the national ministerial Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, and Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health.
She is currently the project leader of the National Empowerment Project, an Indigenous suicide prevention project working with eight Aboriginal communities across the country. She is also project leader of an Office for Learning and Teaching initiative increasing cultural competence and Indigenous participation in psychology education, and is the project lead for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP).
She is actively involved with the Aboriginal community and has a commitment to social justice for Indigenous people. She was recognised for her work with Deadly Award for Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health in 2013
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