The director of Queensland Forensic Mental Health Services, Dr Edward Heffernan, and coauthors based their findings on interviews with 347 Indigenous men and 72 Indigenous women who were incarcerated in Queensland in 2008.
The researchers found that 73% of Indigenous men and 86% of Indigenous women in prison had a mental disorder, compared with 20% prevalence in the Australian community. Specifically, 20% of men and 51% of women had anxiety disorders, 11% of men and 29% of women had depressive disorders, 8% of men and 23% of women had psychotic disorders, and 66% of men and 69% of women had a substance use disorder.
The researchers noted the high prevalence of diagnosed psychotic disorder, particularly among women, as a concern. “Psychotic disorder is associated with significant morbidity and increased risk of reincarceration”, the authors wrote.
According to the authors, their findings highlight an urgent need to develop and resource culturally capable mental health services for Indigenous Australians in custody. “Access to appropriate treatment may help prevent the ‘revolving door’ of incarceration”, the authors wrote.
The authors believe the information obtained from the research is crucial to the planning and implementation of mental health services for Indigenous people in contact with and leaving the criminal justice system.
Source: The Medical Journal of Australia