In­dige­nous men­tal health a vi­tal fo­cus

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Per­era

Abo­rig­i­nal psy­chol­o­gist and WA Aus­tralian of the Year win­ner Tracy Westerman vis­ited Kar­ratha last week to de­liver spe­cialised train­ing in in­dige­nous men­tal health to psy­chol­o­gists and so­cial work­ers from across the re­gion.

Over a two-day work­shop at the Kar­ratha Leisure­plex, the in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised psy­chol­o­gist spoke to lo­cal staff about how to iden­tify signs of men­tal health is­sues such as de­pres­sion in Abo­rig­i­nal clients and in­ter­vene early in a cul­tur­ally ap­pro­pri­ate way.

The event marks the first time Dr Westerman, who grew up in Tom Price, has re­turned to the Pil­bara since win­ning WA Aus­tralian of the Year in Novem­ber.

She said the train­ing would fill in gaps in pro­fes­sion­als’ knowl­edge on in­dige­nous men­tal health, which was too of­ten “in­vis­i­ble” in main­stream psy­chol­ogy train­ing.

“We get peo­ple skilled up in iden­ti­fy­ing the dif­fer­ent signs of de­pres­sion and know­ing how to treat de­pres­sion in a more cul­tur­ally spe­cific way, be­cause the more we can get con­di­tions at an early stage, the more we can pre­vent the es­ca­la­tion of those is­sues in the com­mu­nity more gen­er­ally,” she said.

The work­shop, which was sup­ported by the WA Pri­mary Health Al­liance and fa­cil­i­tated by Mis­sion Aus­tralia, was at­tPioneer­ing ended by about 40 men­tal health and drug and al­co­hol coun­selling staff from Mis­sion Aus­tralia, headspace, Hed­land’s Youth In­volve­ment Coun­cil and Blood­wood Tree.

Mis­sion Aus­tralia Hed­land clin­i­cal lead Amanda MacBride said Dr Westerman’s train­ing was in­valu­able for her and her col­leagues for its fo­cus on in­dige­nous men­tal health. “We can get cul­tural train­ing but it’s gen­eral, and we can get more men­tal health train­ing in our field, but to find that com­bi­na­tion is rare, so that’s what makes this so en­rich­ing be­cause we need that com­bi­na­tion up here in the Pil­bara,” she said. “You are going to have Abo­rig­i­nal clients here . . . so you need those tools.”

Pic­ture: Ali­cia Per­era

Psy­chol­o­gist Tracy Westerman speaks to Pil­bara NGO staff at a two-day men­tal health work­shop in Kar­ratha last week.

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