Culturally appropriate screening tool for Aboriginal Australians opens

A SCREENING tool assessing indigenous mental health is being validated and will be ready for distribution across the country this year.

The Here and Now Aboriginal Assessment (HANAA) screening tool has been developed by the UWA Community, Culture and Mental Health unit and will be validated by the end of September.

Project co-ordinator and UWA Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences Assistant Professor Zaza Lyons says mental health is a neglected area of Aboriginal health.

“While there are no surveys that have measured mental illness among the Aboriginal population at a national level, in part due to the lack of a suitable tool, smaller community based studies have found high levels of mental illness and psychological distress,” A/Prof Lyons says.

“The HANAA overcomes some of these difficulties by providing an easy to use tool that will screen for social and emotional problems among Aboriginal people and can be easily administered with minimal training.”

The screening tool assesses the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal people, focussing on the mental and physical health of the respondent.

It has 10 domains that are covered by an assessor who conducts a semi-structured 20 minute interview to determine if the person has ‘no problem’, a ‘small problem’ or a ‘big problem’ in each of the domains.

A/Prof Lyons says the domains cover depression, anxiety, suicide and substance uses.

“Other domains assess the respondent’s level of functioning within the family and community, and factors such as housing and financial difficulties that may contribute to mental health problems,” she says.

“It also focuses on positive aspects of the respondents mental state such as resilience and ways of coping.”

She says the assessment of Aboriginal peoples’ mental health status required a more holistic approach than that of previous screening tools which were not culture-specific.

“Existing tools have not been specifically designed or validated for use in the Aboriginal population,” the A/Prof says.

“The HANAA has been developed in close consultation with Aboriginal people and will provide community nurses, social workers, GPs and others who provide services to Aboriginal people with a much needed screening tool.”

A/Prof Lyons says the HANAA will hopefully improve the overall health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people.

The HANNAA is not intended to replace a full psychiatric interview and can be administered by non-experienced people.

It will be distributed through various mental health networks and will be freely available to those that work in the field.

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