A big gap between rural mental health care and Indigenous people? You decide…

Rural Mental Health Professionals – even though it is a very tough job, with few resources, and bucket-loads of human pain to alleviate…. Never lose sight of hope and always remember to care.

Photo credit: Mark Saddler 2014

photo credit Mark Saddler 2014 

This is a very sad story from my research which motivates me to never lose sight of the value of excellence in mental health clinical practice, and that the important thing that mental health clinicians do is that they help PEOPLE. 

This is a story that should be told. Future research should be undertaken to understand how a view can be formed by any rural Australian mental health professional that a gaol is a suitable location to receive adequate mental health care, and to explain why adequate mental health care cannot be achieved in small rural communities. Further, what is it that motivates such a person or people to celebrate the gaoling of a mental health client with a cake? The dialogue presented below does not require any further interpretation for it to be clear in its meaning. The text is challenging and has evoked tears and emotional responses among readers’ to date. It should serve to challenge mental health professionals to find more effective ways to improve care for the vulnerable in our community, and to ensure fairness and equity for rural people. An Aboriginal woman tells a story from her life experiences…

“ …I listened to a mental health worker tell a mother that her son is better off in gaol. …do you know what they do? (Emotion welling in her tone). After they send a kid to gaol…they buy morning tea. Chocolate cake! And celebrate… the mental health staff. (Loud anger filled tone). Yep. An orange cake today or a tea cake? 

The mental health workers said to me: ‘Are you coming’? ‘Are you coming to have cake’? ‘To celebrate? He is GONE, he is off our hands’. 

… all those kids have SO many problems and SO many issues, the mental health people don’t know how to address them, and I think they are just leaving them down there (in gaol) to get them out of the way. …they are getting sent (quiver in her voice) for so long, by the time they get out, the next generation is coming through. And it is just going to go on like a cycle. 

But, how could they buy morning tea? (Disgust in her tone) …and celebrate when a kid goes to gaol? 
Mmmmmm sad… (a long silent reflective pause).There is a BIG gap between the mental health workers and the client.”



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