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Professor Pat Dudgeon

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention

by Insight

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide occurs at double the rate of other Australians. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of 15 to 34 years of age, accounting for 1 in 3 deaths. The mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has become a critical issue and available data indicates an entrenched, worsening, mental health crisis. 

At the core of any solutions are concepts of community ownership and valuing culture. New approaches where mental health professions engage with Indigenous people in ways that support self-determination and assist recovery and cultural maintenance are essential. 

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) at UWA were undertaken in response to appalling rates of suicide. ATSISPEP achieved the development of an evidence base for what works in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide prevention and the development of a culturally appropriate evaluation framework. It identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community suicide prevention needs and that system-level change was required. As a result, the Centre of Best Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention (CBPATSISP, UWA) was established to reduce the causes, prevalence and impact of suicide on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, their families and communities. CBPATSISP aims to identify best practice programs and services and research in Indigenous suicide prevention through an Indigenous ‘lens’ for Indigenous peoples. Also, to identify the need and facilitate innovative research, to translate best practice for practical application for stakeholders. 

This presentation will review main messages from the Solutions That Work Report and work of the CBPATSISP. 

Pat Dudgeon is from the Bardi people in Western Australia. She is a psychologist and professor at the School of Indigenous Studies at UWA. Her research includes Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention. She is the director of the UWA Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention and chief investigator of a national research project, Generating Indigenous Patient-centred, Clinically and Culturally Capable Models of Mental Health Care, that aims to develop approaches to Indigenous mental health services that promote cultural values and strengths as well as empowering users. She has many publications in Indigenous mental health, in particular, the Working Together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Wellbeing Principals and Practice 2014. 

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