‘Closing The Gap’ targets must be addressed
21 March 2013
Thursday 21 March 2013 – National Close The Gap Day
Conspicuous absence of mental health in 'Closing The Gap' targets must be addressed
On National Close the Gap Day, the National Mental Health Commission is calling on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to prioritise improving the mental wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by including mental health as an additional target in the ‘Closing the Gap’ program.
“Mental illness is second only to cardiovascular disease as the leading driver for the observed health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It must be made a priority if we are to truly combat the vicious cycles of disadvantage that exist in too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” Commission Chair Prof. Allan Fels says.
“It is important that Australian governments start addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health in different ways.
“Mental health and emotional wellbeing are pivotal to the growth and survival of communities, and individuals’ sense of wellbeing. Supporting self-determination and working in partnership is important, and programs led by communities are vital. However, a strong commitment from COAG is needed to ensure mental health is the urgent priority it should be.
“The Commission is calling on COAG to include measurable improvements to mental health and wellbeing as an additional target in the ‘Closing the Gap’ program.
“This must be done through the development and implementation of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental and Social Emotional Wellbeing Plan this year,” Prof. Fels says.
Facts and figures:
- Mental illness (15% burden of disease) is second only to cardiovascular disease (17%) as the leading driver for the observed health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians
- Up to 12 per cent of ten-year life expectancy gap with non-Indigenous Australians has been attributed to mental health conditions; four per cent to suicide; and six per cent to alcohol and substance abuse
- Poor mental health contributes to suicide risk and high rates of smoking, alcohol and substance abuse and obesity that in turn progresses chronic disease: the biggest killer of Aboriginal and Torres-Strait Islander peoples
- The suicide rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is over twice that of other Australians
Read the Supplementary Paper - The Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Families and Communities.
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:
P:0431 180 161
"Even the most disadvantaged Australians should be able to lead a 'contributing life,' whatever that means for them and this simple goal will be our touchstone and yardstick."
Chair Prof Allan Fels AO
National Mental Health Commission