Annual Conference

TheMHS 2014 S044: Improving Indigenous People’s Mental Health Outcomes

By August 28, 2014 No Comments

The abstracts for this session can be viewed here.

Josephine Gray and Ash Omar presented ‘Negotiating space between cultural and clinical’.

The Aboriginal Mental Health Unit covers the Kimberley and Pilbara region. The inpatient unit is named “good spirit” or Mabu Liyan – a word chosen by the Yawuru people. Since 2012, with an opening of 14 beds, the unit has eliminated the need for Aboriginal people to travel great distances to receive services, allowing them to remain close to home, country and family. The unit is also a link to other services in the area that people may not access readily. A main strength of the unit is that the cultural team is integrated into the care team: there is no ‘them’ and ‘us’.

The session raised the idea that the space between cultural and clinical is about sharing knowledge and learning from one another. The incorporation of the cultural paradigm into the clinical approach has allowed for the involvement of family and the collective culture of the Aboriginal people to be used in care, not as a secondary objective but as healing and being on the journey to recovery.

The main space is about:

  • Negotiating
  • Learning
  • Assessing
  • Listening, and
  • Nurturing the spirit

The space and the unit is not just about indigenous workers working with indigenous people. It is about non indigenous people being able to competently work with indigenous people, not just using indigenous mental health workers as a passport to working with people who historically and presently are at a deep disadvantage.  

The challenges that the unit and the workers face are gaining respect among the other ‘professionals’ and making it everybody’s responsibility to look after and care for Indigenous peoples’ mental health rather than simply indigenous care for indigenous.