Quick fact about mental health in Australia
1 May 2020
According to a study completed in 2015, Northern Territory has the highest rate of Burden of Disease in Australia. Mental health conditions in the Northern Territory make up 16.3% of these results compared with 7.4% national mental illness and substance use disorders. This figure could be even higher due to mental illness being habitually under reported. This is due, in part, to a lack of services funded to assist with mental health issues among the Aboriginal populations in a culturally sensitive and specialised way.
In a response to the inquiry into Social and Economic Benefits of Improving Mental Health, NTCOSS reported that mainstream mental health services are based on a model which assumes first contact is with a GP and then progresses to more specialised treatment (pg. 5). This line of expectation is ineffective for Territorians from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. Instead, they seek support from family and friends where these issues are understood in a culturally relevant way and can be spoken about in relatable ways. In order to fill this gap in the services available, an easily accessible Aboriginal controlled service program is better positioned to provide initial assessment using language and concepts that are culturally relevant and address the holistic needs of the person. These interactions would require language and specialised mental health interpreters which could be found in these existing organisations and could be utilised as they are available through partnerships and community engagement. There is a history of this being successful in Alice Springs and throughout Western Australia.