Media Release: 14 November 2016

Act now on ATSISPEP report recommendations - Psychologists

As a strong supporter of efforts to close the gap, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) welcomes the recent release of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) report.

The APS is calling for a quick implementation of the recommendations from the report which aims to reduce the high rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The APS recognises the need for suicide prevention initiatives to be supported by Government but overseen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This includes ensuring that Indigenous people in local communities are trained in a range of peer support, mental health and suicide prevention roles and that Aboriginal-controlled health services are the preferred provider of suicide prevention activities.

In addition, it is necessary that other systems that contribute to the trauma or marginalisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and particularly Indigenous youth, such as the juvenile justice system, re-examine their processes and provide trauma-informed care.

APS Fellow Professor Pat Dudgeon, a member of the ATSISPEP project, said, “Suicide in Aboriginal communities is a huge issue that requires a tailored culturally specific and sensitive response. 

“All attempts to address suicide must also come from an understanding of the existing and ongoing trauma experienced by Aboriginal people and the institutional racism that affects the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people.   This isn’t just a health issue – it is a social issue, a justice issue and an economic issue.”

APS President Anthony Cichello said, “The APS is committed to working with our Aboriginal colleagues to address suicide. Earlier in the year the APS issued an apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as we recognise this issue is more than just a mental health issue, it is about addressing also the social conditions that have led and still lead to high rates of trauma among Indigenous people.”

APS Executive Director, Professor Lyn Littlefield, says the APS aims to ensure that psychologists have knowledge in working with Indigenous peoples so they can help close the gap in culturally safe and responsive ways, and that it is working on a range of related initiatives including:  

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

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 22,000 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.