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An article on the prevalence of mental disorder among Indigenous people in Queensland prisons was published today (2 July) in the Medical journal of Australia (MJA).
The research, published in MJA as Prevalence of mental illness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland prisons, was undertaken by a cohort of researchers from Queensland and Victoria. Adults who self-identified as Indigenous Australian - a total of 25% of all Indigenous men and 62% of all Indigenous women incarcerated in Queensland at the time of the study - were interviewed using the Composite international diagnostic interview (CIDI) and clinical interview techniques.
The study found that 73% of Indigenous men and 86% of Indigenous women in prison had a mental disorder, compared with the 20% prevalence in the non-Indigenous Australian community. The findings highlight an urgent need to develop and resource culturally capable mental health services for Indigenous Australians in custody.
Beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO commended the research, saying:
'We believe that an early intervention approach is essential. Many of the mental health issues that lead to incarceration need to be addressed during the formative years. As a result, many of the programs we are already funding for young Indigenous people are designed to build resilience and improve self-esteem.'
'We recognise that mental health problems are more common and severe in Indigenous Australians and we have already spent around $2.5 million on research into depression and anxiety in this population group. In November, we will be announcing more research grants totalling $1 million to fund research into how we can improve the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We recognise that this barely scratches the surface and much more work needs to be done to help these communities now,' she said.
Source: Medical journal of Australia and NACCHO communique
Edward B Heffernan
Queensland Forensic Mental Health Services