Aboriginal mental health
Aboriginal people have a diverse culture with a rich and compelling history. The impact of colonisation, legislation and the stolen generation created significant hardships for Aboriginal Australians. These problems continue today and impact on Aboriginal people and their mental health.
Issues for Aboriginal people include:
- continued grief and loss in the Aboriginal community
- living in continual poverty
- loss of identity and culture
- chronic disease
- low self-esteem and self-worth
- premature death
- poor education outcomes
- overcrowding in family homes
- substance use problems
Managing mental health problems
The impact of history continues today with problems such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression becoming more common in Aboriginal communities across Western Australia.
Successfully engaging Aboriginal people in support services requires a “whole of family” approach to working with Aboriginal people and their families.
The wellbeing of an individual is linked to the wellbeing of all significant others within the family unit.
Strengths of Aboriginal people
Aboriginal people are resilient and tolerant and are able to cope with adversity with the support of their strong kinship systems and their acceptance of diversity.
Aboriginal people respond to a “whole of family” approach as it acknowledges the importance of family and kinship. It is important to view mental health problems within the social and emotional context of their lives.
Connection to the land is a central factor for the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal Australians.
Sometimes families find themselves facing many difficulties all at the same time. These difficulties might include issues to do with bringing up children, housing, family violence, children staying away from school, physical health, mental health, money, and alcohol or substance abuse. When families are having problems like these, help is often needed from more than one agency.
StrongFamilies brings family members and agency workers together to share relevant information, identify goals and develop a plan to help meet the family’s needs.
Mental health first aid
New guidelines have been compiled to inform the public how mental health first aid (MHFA) should be provided to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis is resolved.
The completed guidelines include depression, suicidal thoughts and behaviour, psychosis and deliberate self-harm without suicidal intent
They are based on the expert opinions of Aboriginal clinicians from Australia, who have extensive knowledge of, and experience in, mental health. The complete MHFA guidelines and a list of instructors are available from the MHFA website (external link).