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Improving Indigenous mental health outcomes with an Indigenous mental health workforce

Penney Upton, Linda Ford, Ruth Wallace, Sarah Jackson, Jenna Richard and Dominic Upton


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience high rates of psychological distress and suicide. However, they are less likely to use mental health services than non-Indigenous Australians, and those services do not have sufficient numbers of Indigenous mental health workers. Mental health service use increases when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Indigenous health workers both feel culturally safe. Strategies to increase cultural safety include employing more Indigenous workers, increasing the cultural competency of non-Indigenous workers, and developing health service policies in collaboration with Indigenous workers and the local communities. Cultural safety is believed to improve the retention of Indigenous health workers. It is also important that they feel valued, their cultural values and ways of knowing are respected, and they are provided with mentorship, networking opportunities, and professional development programs.