IAHA’s Media Release

During Mental Health Week, on World Mental Health Day, Wednesday 10 October 2012, Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) calls for a comprehensive, culturally safe, interprofessional approach to mental health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer a higher burden of emotional distress and mental illness than that experienced by the wider community.” said Ms Faye McMillan, Chairperson of IAHA. “The social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which includes their mental health, is influenced by multiple, complex factors. This demands a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach that takes into account the holistic view of health held by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
“No single health profession alone will be able to meet the complex mental healthcare needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” said Ms McMillan. “In order to truly make a difference and improve mental health outcomes for our people, we will all need to work together.”
IAHA is committed to building and supporting the allied health workforce to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health outcomes.
“Our members come from a diverse number of allied health professions who can positively impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health outcomes.” said Ms McMillan. “We have social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists and now Indigenous Mental Health Practitioners – all of whom, individually and collaboratively, can play a part in improving mental health.”

“I encourage all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to think outside the square and consider a career in allied health, you can really make a difference.” said Kylie Stothers, an Aboriginal social worker living in Katherine, NT. “Mental illness and suicide are huge issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, family and communities, particularly in rural and remote areas. We need more allied health professionals out here on the ground in order to successfully tackle these issues.”

IAHA acknowledges the Mental Health Council of Australia’s theme for Mental Health Week 2012, “Whoever you are or wherever you live, you’re not alone”. Unfortunately this statement implies equitable access to mental health services and support structures, which is not always the case.

“Access to mental health services means more than just availability or geographic location of a service.” said Ms McMillan. “Access to mental health services is also influenced by the appropriateness, affordability and acceptability of the service. Providers of mental health services, including allied health professionals, must ensure that they deliver culturally competent mental healthcare to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is imperative that health professionals have a comprehensive understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, particularly as they pertain to mental health.”
Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) is the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health professionals and students.

For more information, please contact Craig Dukes on 02 6285 1010.

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