Australia's Indigenous population under mental health crisis

09:48, August 17, 2010      

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Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is on the brink of a mental health crisis, an Indigenous expert said in north Queensland on Tuesday.

Gracelyn Smallwood, a registered nurse and professor at James Cook University, said dependency on so-called party drugs, including "speed" and "ice", is to blame.

She said there is an increasing shift in substance abuse among Indigenous youth, from alcohol and cannabis to harder drugs like meth-amphetamines.

"It's like a tsunami coming to the Great Barrier Reef, we've got to start having plans in place, don't wait for the crisis to hit us," Smallwood told ABC Network.

A 2008 report from Edith Cowan University found the level of illicit drug use among the Indigenous population in metropolitan regions was more than twice the level of the general Australian population.

Dr Mary Emeleus, who works in Queensland's largest counseling center for people seeking refuge from drug addiction and mental health problems, said while methamphetamine abuse is a major problem in Indigenous communities, only a small number of addicts actually call out for help.

She said the compounding effects of repeated methamphetamine use are taking a heavy health toll on the Indigenous population, making it even harder to "close the gap" in healthcare.

"I wouldn't like it to see as a totally hopeless situation but I would say being a homeless Indigenous person would be one of the hardest positions from which to stop using illicit drugs."

Source: Xinhua


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