Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island inequality is still indicated as having significant gaps in all areas, including health (Wright, P., & Lewis, P., 2017 ). Mental health, appalling living conditions and past traumas have led to high suicide rates that are having great impact on Indigenous communities (Korff,2016 ).

There is a strong need for more proactive community initiatives to promote mental health and wellbeing. There is a need to support those in high risk groups to help reduce suicide risk in young people. When addressing the youths from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island backgrounds, culturally adapted mental health education programs are required.

Want more information about our innovative programs? Find out more today!

Aboriginal Mental Health Statistics

The Australian Bureau of Statistics shares some data on Aboriginal mental health statistics:
- Intentional self-harm is the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons between 15 and 34 years of age (ABS, 2016 ).
- Suicide rates double that of the general population (ABS, 2016).

The World Health Organisation in partnership with the Global Alliance for Health Promotion published eight principles of Culturally Appropriate Health Promotion which is used as a frame work tailored to the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander context. This framework recommends working alongside Indigenous communities to empower a shared knowledge to develop sustainable, community-owned, culturally driven work. The 8 principles being: community involvement, consultation and empowerment, socioculturally tailored health promotion techniques, community evaluation and feedback in real time, the utilisation of local communication techniques, maximisation of both the spoken word and the local tongue, sustainable health development and community health autonomy, Holistic in nature, addressing the needs of the whole person, and spirituality and social connectedness as health determinants (Demaio, Drysdale & de Courten, 2012).

Mind Blank Recommendations:

Tip 1. When working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths or community, we recommend that direct impute and permission is sourced from local Elders prior to conducting any program work.

Information About Mind Blank Programs

Our programs are evidence based practice that work in parallel with health professionals and researchers to develop script content and methodology. Mental health consumers are included in the planning of a new program. This commences with identifying a story of lived experience with mental ill health. Commonly what will happen is an individual is selected to share their story with one of the actors. The selection process is commonly through a partnership with the local health district or a school. This story is turned into a stage script. The actors then host a rehearsal session with a health professionals present to ensure that the team are capturing true integrity of the story, as well as avoiding portraying stereotypes to encourage authenticity of the lived experience.

Click below to access more information about some of our youth focused programs:
Mental health in Primary Schools
Mental health in Multicultural Australia

Indigenous Mental Health Programs

An example of a collaboration working with youths from the Top End of Australia can be demonstrated in our alliance with TEAMhealth.

In order to conduct this program work we applied the above WHO framework recommendations. Our program sorts to address a culturally adapted workshop to tackle youth mental health education and suicide prevention awareness. TEAMhealth provided pre-existing community relationships to help empower the need for the program delivery. Together we adapted a sociocultural version of the Mind Blank program. For each geographical location we slightly tailored the content to address the age group and the concerns from the local communities. In the remote communities TEAMhealth staff members were supported the Mind Blank team by translating some of the spoken dialogue into local tongue to help increase comprehension levels of the content.

Tour locations Included: 

  1. Darwin
  2. Palmerston
  3. Katherine
  4. Batchelor
  5. Belyuen
  6. Gumbalaunya

This collaboration enabled us to raise the question about help seeking, and also address a solution as youth mental health outreach workers were present during every session. The program implemented on tour used a theatre designed workshop to promote depression awareness, mental health help seeking and suicide prevention education. A performance feedback form was sent to the school students and a customer feedback form sent to the teachers. The model was considered appropriate in supporting both students and school staff in this important area of work. Extremely positive responses were collected from both surveys. The data indicated that the program was successful in delivering a culturally adaptable model in an engaging and informative manner.

For more evaluation outcomes click here. Here is a shout out from Darwin High School.

Feedback from Teachers

“The actors were excellent in interacting with the students we have at our school. The show was the best I’ve seen in my 3 years at school… The topics covered were age appropriate and addressed the social skills we need in our area. Well done to everyone!! The students talked about the actors long after they had left. Their presence made a big impact on our students.”

 “I asked some of my students what they got out of the performance and this is exactly what they said- there’s always someone to help- you just have to ask.  You have to communicate if you want people to know how you feel and to help you.” 

Mind Blank Recommendations Continued:

Tip 2: When working with programs to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health create the program with an element of sustainability in mind.

The above tip is importance because trust needs to be formed. Too ofter the communities are being faced with one off programs due to limited succession planning and harsh funding cuts.

Tip 3: Include local impute from service provers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Tip 4: Focus on an empowerment element in the planning. Sharing skills can lead to a peer support training model. This can in turn allow for local program delivery.

Mind Blank is Actively Seeking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health Collaborations 

Our team is deeply saddened by the statistics that share that suicide is the leading cause of death young people in Australia. The gap highlighted earlier outline Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s health is shocking. We are keen to do more to make sure early intervention and planning is a priority for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health outcomes.

If you are interested in collaborating with the Mind Blank team. Get in touch today!

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