The Jilya Institute for Indigenous Mental Health aims to provide a clinical and cultural best practice response to the needs of at-risk Aboriginal communities across Australia. Sadly, we have communities where suicide rates are escalating, and hopelessness is becoming pervasive. As a country facing this growing tragedy, we still have no nationally accepted evidence-based programs across the spectrum of early intervention and prevention activities.
Jilya presents an opportunity to nurture our people through best practice in suicide prevention, Indigenous mental health led by Aboriginal people and based upon two decades of evidence-based research and practice. The ‘system’ has been built by non-Indigenous people, to meet the requirements of non-Indigenous people, and is delivered to Indigenous people by, frequently, non-Indigenous people. It is therefore unsurprising that this is failing and the implications of doing nothing new or different are clear. Indigenous suicide rates will continue to be exponentially and heartbreakingly high.
Our vision is to address gaps in culturally informed and clinically validated approaches to improve outcomes for Indigenous peoples in Australia across the areas of mental health and suicide prevention, justice, child protection, and education.
The Jilya vision drives our work to have a world free of generational child suicides. To ensure that programs are delivered in line with the evidence of what works and that every funded program understands and is capable of measurable client outcomes.
Putting our vision into action…
Stream 1: Ensure informed treatment focus, ongoing analysis and determination of causal pathways
Despite the world’s highest rates of child suicide there is still a lack of understanding around causal pathways for suicide. Causal pathways tell us ‘why’, which is a critical first step to program development and evaluation of outcomes. The gaps that we continue to have in Australia in relation to our most complex issues commence with a better informed program focus to ensure that they are addressing the factors that we know are implicated in risk, in order to increase resilience.
This stream of Jilya will focus on addressing the significant number of gaps in best practice through better application of evidence around what works.
Stream 2: Training in treatments of best practice
Currently, and despite the significantly high rates of suicide, estimated rates of trauma and mental ill health there are no established treatments of ‘best practice’ that have been empirically tested with Aboriginal clients.
Jilya aims to address this issue through research grants, and partnerships to fund a dedicated team of clinicians who will work to determine treatments of best practice for trauma, depression, attachment, etc. that run across the spectrum of mental health, suicide and arguably child protection, education and justice domains.
The overriding objective being that these clinicians will then be able to train ‘on the ground’ service providers in these treatments to ensure that there is best practice applied to those Aboriginal people at risk of suicide, mental health, justice, child protection sectors. The focus of Jilya will be an early intervention and prevention approach.
Stream 3: Training high-risk regions in best practice program delivery
This stream will involve the upskilling of services around intervention and prevention programs in train the trainer format, based on programs donated to Jilya through Dr Tracy Westerman’s business Indigenous Psychological Services.
These ‘whole of (Aboriginal) community suicide intervention programs’ are the only programs to have demonstrated a measurable reduction in suicide risk factors across multiple language groups (Westerman & Sheridan, 2020) and are currently not available to our high-risk communities due an absence of funding.
The Jilya Institute will aim to enable the mobilisation of these programs in train the trainer model and through mentoring of services over time in delivery. This will enable programs to be community ‘led’ and ‘community responsive’ with external specialist support to ensure its complex and ongoing delivery into communities. This is essential to address the long term and entrenched nature of generational suicides and trauma. It also value adds to skills in high risk regions rather than assuming that communities are capable of responding alone.
Stream 4: The Dr Tracy Westerman Aboriginal Psychology Scholarship Program
Sitting under the above streams is the Dr Tracy Westerman Indigenous Psychology Scholarship Program.