Mental health of Indigenous Australians: a review of findings from community surveys

15 February 2012

Indigenous Australians have a markedly higher burden of disease and injury than the general Australian population.

Most of this has been attributed to higher rates of non-communicable diseases, including mental disorders, but as there are no national data on the prevalence or incidence of diagnosed mental disorders for Indigenous people, proxy measures of relative rates have been used to estimate this component of the burden of disease.

Although there have been small studies of mental health in specific Indigenous communities over the past 50 years, the only national statistics that have been available until recently were the suicide rate,the hospitalisation rate for diagnosed mental disorders, emergency department attendances for mental health and substance misuse-related conditions and contacts with public community health services, which indicate a relative prevalence two or three times the corresponding general population rate. Even this is likely to be an underestimate, as many Indigenous people do not access regular health services, or delay seeking help until problems are severe.

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