Terra Nullius, the Australian Dream and the House of Lords
February 3, 2016
February 18, 2016

Psychological Crises – life and death – in the NT  

By Pamela Nathan

Re: ‘Northern Territory intervention ‘fails on human rights’ and closing the gap’, published in The Guardian, 8 February, 2016.

In November, the Australian Medical Association called rates of Indigenous imprisonment a “health and justice crisis”. Indeed it reflects a psychological crisis. The prisons are full with Aboriginal prisoners and the juvenile detention centres are full with Aboriginal youth. Incarceration rates have nearly doubled in less than a decade. There has been a 500% increase in reports of self harm or suicide by Indigenous children and a sharp rise in the number of Indigenous children in care.

These statistics on incarceration and suicide scream psychological trauma and distress. Where indeed are the figures on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Major Depression or Anxiety Disorders in the NT? Where are the statistics on the mental health status of the incarcerated? Where are the mental health facilities and support systems? There is no equivalent to the services provided in the states down south, for example, in the NT.   That’s why we don’t have the NT stats on the frequency and nature of mental illness or psychological suffering.

Self-determination was deemed a failure and in rolled the army in the name of  Intervention 2007 to implement emergency measures. The Intervention has fuelled distress with false stigmatisation and bred compliance and therefore hatred, a hatred which is concealed but violently enacted.

Psychological action is needed urgently now to stem the haemorrhaging mental distress which translates into criminality and violence toward self and others. Psychological action is needed urgently now to save lives, change minds and transform lives.

The NT is a landscape of crisis, of such proportions that war zones are comparable. It is first and foremost a psychological crisis for the Aboriginal individuals, families and communities. It is a crisis facing a First Nation people. This crisis needs to be fought with recognition; the recognition there is indeed a life and death crisis. This crisis needs to be fought with action which saves the lives of every person counted in the statistics and action which can provide mental health and well-being.