Authors: Pat Dudgeon
Event: 2015 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health, INDIGENOUS, community ownership and valuing culture
Type of resource: Video
Abstract: Pat Dudgeon presented at TheMHS Conference 2015.
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.