Closing the Gap: supporting mental health and suicide prevention of First Nations Australians

Posted 22nd March 2022 in General

National Close the Gap Day is held in Australia each year on 17 March. The national campaign aims to bring attention to the health disparities and inequalities between Australian First Nations peoples and the wider population.

There are 17 targets under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which include the health-focused targets of social and emotional wellbeing and long healthy lives.

The Close the Gap Campaign Report 2022, published by the Lowitja Institute, highlights how First Nations peoples are leading change and transformation, with calls to action around accountability in partnerships across the target areas.

The Close the Gap Campaign Report 2022 recommends:

  • Structural reform
  • Innovation driven by cultural intellect and cultural safety
  • Empowering communities to improve health and wellbeing through equal access.

When considering health disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, we know suicide is one of the leading causes of death among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Data shows the rate of suicide is twice as high for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples compared to the wider Australian population.

The mental health and suicide prevention sector needs to ensure that current practices reflect the evidence base in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention, to reduce inequalities and support the targets outlined in the National Agreement.

Closing the Gap reminds the sector, governments and community why a suicide prevention strategy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is critical. It also highlights the need for a suicide prevention strategy that is evidence-based and effective. Solutions that Work: What the evidence and our people tell us, produced under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Evaluation Project, is one example of a report guiding prevention approaches.

The report encourages suicide prevention activity designed and implemented specifically for Indigenous communities, is upstream focused, and supports and encourages cultural identity and practices.

Life in Mind acknowledges the contributions of those working within the space of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention and encourages the mental health and suicide prevention sector to continue to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention and the national Close the Gap campaign.

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