Media Release: 17 March 2016

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) says closing the mental-health and suicide gap between Indigenous and other Australians requires a bipartisan, long-term commitment to a dedicated Indigenous mental-health plan developed with Indigenous leadership.

It is widely recognised in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that a mental health crisis exists, with mental health conditions, self-harm and suicide reported at over double the rate of other Australians.

The APS supports in principle the 2015 Gayaa Dhuwi Declaration proposed by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health (NATSILMH), which calls for:

  • Indigenous leadership across all parts of the Australian mental health system,
  • Recognition of Indigenous concepts of social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and healing across all parts of the Australian mental health system,
  • Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and healing combined with clinical perspectives to make the greatest contribution to high standards of mental health and suicide prevention outcomes.

Leading psychologist and Chair of the NATSILMH, Professor Pat Dudgeon FAPS says building on social and emotional wellbeing and cultural strengths is the foundation for improving Indigenous mental health and preventing suicide.

“A network of relationships between individuals and their traditional lands, family and kin, is central to social and emotional wellbeing,” says Prof Dudgeon.  “These are protective factors and a source of resilience against the challenges of life that impact on Indigenous mental health – such as racism, entrenched poverty and disadvantage.”

She says closing the mental health gap requires a re-think of conventional models of delivering mental health services.

“There is a need for more community-based, culturally appropriate mental health services that include strengthening culture and identity,” says Prof Dudgeon.  “These need to be developed in consultation with Indigenous leaders and delivered by culturally competent health professionals.”

Prof Mike Kyrios, President of the APS and co-chair with Prof Pat Dudgeon of the APS Indigenous Psychology Advisory Group, says the APS is striving to contribute to closing the Indigenous wellbeing gap by working with its members to increase cultural competence among psychologists, increase the number of Indigenous psychologists and improve training of psychologists in relation to Indigenous issues.

- Ends -

Notes to editors:

For more information, or to arrange an interview call Rebecca Matthews on 03 8662 3358 or 0435 896 444, or email  Find the APS Media team on Twitter:  @AustPsych

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 21,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.