” It is essential that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have access to culturally and age-appropriate mental health services that are in close proximity to their homes.
The Australian Government should invest in building the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led and controlled health organisations to deliver these services in communities.
Why ? A greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents indicated concerns about suicide (40.2% compared with 6% of non-Indigenous respondents).
Relative to non-Indigenous respondents, a greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents with psychological distress indicated concerns about gambling (13.8% compared with 4.2%), domestic/family violence (26.3% compared with 16.8%), drugs (20.1% compared with 10.9%), discrimination (26.3% compared with 18.6%) and alcohol (15.2% compared with 8.6%).
See dedicated focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people Part 2 Below
Read Brooke Blurton’s speaker BIO Here
” Have you seen the brilliant line-up of speakers at the NACCHO Youth Conference, 4 November 2019 at the Darwin Convention Centre? https://www.naccho.org.au/home/naccho-youth-conference-2019/
Are you under 29 years and working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health or related sectors?
If so, register NOW for our free NACCHO Youth Conference. Closing 25 October
Places are filling quick! 👉🏾 http://bit.ly/2qALFkH
Part 1 Press Release : A new joint report by Mission Australia and Black Dog Institute indicates that considerably more young people in Australia are experiencing psychological distress than seven years ago.
Almost one in four young people in 2018 say they are experiencing mental health challenges, with young females twice as likely as males to face this issue.
A higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people also met the criteria for psychological distress than their non-Indigenous peers.
The Can we talk? Seven year youth mental health report – 2012-2018 Youth Survey findings of the past seven years – and is co-authored with Black Dog Institute experts – to ascertain and investigate rates of psychological distress experienced by young people in Australia who are aged 15-19.
The report further examines the concerns, general wellbeing and help-seeking behaviours of the close to 27,000 participants of the 2018 Youth Survey aged 15-19, including those who are experiencing psychological distress – highlighting the vital role that friends, parents, services, schools and the internet play as sources of help for young people who are struggling with their mental health.
Key findings include:
- Close to one in four young people met the criteria for experiencing psychological distress – a substantial increase over the past seven years (rising by 5.5% from 18.7% in 2012 to 24.2% in 2018).
- In 2018, more than three in ten (31.9%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people met the criteria for psychological distress, compared to 23.9% for non-Indigenous young people.
- Across seven years, females were twice as likely as males to experience psychological distress. The increase in psychological distress has also been far more marked among females (from 22.5% in 2012 to 30.0% in 2018, compared to a rise from 12.7% to 15.6% for males).
- Stigma and embarrassment, fear and a lack of support were the three most commonly cited barriers that prevent young people from seeking help.
- The top issues of personal concern for young Australians experiencing psychological distress were coping with stress, mental health and school or study problems. There was also a notably high level of concern about other issues including body image, suicide, family conflict and bullying/emotional abuse.
- Almost four times the proportion of young people with psychological distress reported concerns about suicide (35.6% compared with 9.4% of respondents without psychological distress).
- Young people experiencing psychological distress reported they would go to friend/s, parent/s or guardian/s and the internet as their top three sources of help. This is compared to friend/s, parent/s or guardian/s and a relative/family friend for those without psychological distress.
In response to these findings, Mission Australia’s CEO James Toomey said: “It’s deeply concerning that so many young people are experiencing psychological distress. Youth mental health is a serious national challenge that must be tackled as a priority.
“The sheer volume of young people who are struggling with mental health difficulties shows that there remains urgent need for improved access to timely, accessible and appropriate support. Irrespective of their location, background or gender, young people must have the resources they need to manage their individual mental health journey with access to youth-friendly and evidence-based mental health supports.
“Parents, peers, schools and health professionals are vital sources of support for our young people, so it’s important they are adequately equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to provide effective support when needed. For schools right across Australia, more resourcing is needed to train staff, embed wellbeing personnel and provide evidence-based early intervention and prevention programs.
“In light of these findings, I urge governments to listen to young people’s concerns about mental health and co-design solutions with them.”
With the report confirming that young people experiencing psychological distress are less likely to seek help than those without mental health concerns, Black Dog Institute Director and Chief Scientist, Professor Helen Christensen said: “Global research tells us that over 75% of mental health issues develop before the age of 25, and these can have lifelong consequences.
“We are still in the dark as to why mental health and suicide risk has increased in our current cohort of youth, a finding that is not unique to Australia.
“Adolescence is a critical time in which to intervene, but we also know that young people experiencing psychological distress can be harder to reach. This report shows that young people in distress will seek help directly from the internet. As such, we need to continue to provide online and app-based tools that may be a key part of the solution. We also need to catch the problems upstream by prioritising early intervention and prevention efforts.”
Part 2 Meeting the diversity of young people’s need : Dedicated focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
Nearly one third (31.9%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people indicated some form of psychological distress, compared with just under one quarter (23.9%) of non-Indigenous respondents.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people experiencing psychological distress were more likely than their non-Indigenous peers to report feeling as though they had no control over their life and to report lower levels of self-esteem. Further, a greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people with psychological distress reported having issues that they did not seek help for, despite thinking they needed to (41.2% compared with 36.2% of non-Indigenous respondents).
Positively the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent and youth health and wellbeing 2018 report found that in 2014–15 over three-quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 15–24 said, they were happy all or most of the time in the previous 4 weeks.
However, around two-thirds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–24 experienced one or more personal stressors in the previous year, the most common being not being able to get a job, and one in three reported being treated unfairly because they were Indigenous.
This report also showed that most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–24 (67%) experienced low to moderate levels of psychological distress in the previous month, while 33% experienced high to very high level.
When responding to the Youth Survey 2018 greater proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents with psychological distress also indicated concerns about gambling, domestic/family violence, drugs, discrimination, alcohol, LGBTIQ issues and suicide than non- Indigenous respondents with psychological distress.
It is important to take into account these often compounding concerns, as research shows that the leading causes of hospitalisation for mental and behavioural disorders among Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people aged 10-24 years were due to substance abuse, schizophrenia, and reactions to severe stress.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have endured and survived a traumatic and deeply challenging colonisation period that affected all aspects of their collective lives, and which continues to challenge communities, families and individuals today.
At the population level, higher rates of mental health difficulties among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are intertwined with entrenched poverty, substandard and overcrowded housing, health conditions and disabilities, intergenerational un/under-employment, stressors and trauma, racism and discrimination, and at-risk behaviours in response to sometimes desperate situations.80 In particular, the members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants are ‘more likely to have had contact with mental health services,’ with children in their care often challenged by higher rates of emotional and behavioural difficulties.81
In many cases, responding to population mental health challenges means addressing their deeper, structural causes. These should be identified and solutions co-designed and co-implemented under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-leadership, including community-controlled organisations and health services. The needs of young people should be prioritised as directed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and their representative organisations.
Community-led programs that build on cultural determinants of social and emotional wellbeing and cultural strengths should be supported to help provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people with protective factors against mental health challenges, and particularly against suicide, by supporting a strong sense of ‘social, cultural and emotional wellbeing’ that includes a positive Indigenous/cultural identity. These cultural determinants vary but can include culturally- shaped connections to family, kin, community, and country.
Yet, in many cases, mainstream health and mental health programs fail to incorporate culturally appropriate practices or awareness when working with or treating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing challenges to their wellbeing.
Program funding must be flexible enough to provide for differences, tailor services to meet community and individual needs and to support younger age groups where critical issues arise. It is essential that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have access to culturally and age-appropriate mental health services that are in close proximity to their homes. The Australian Government should invest in building the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led and controlled health organisations to deliver these services in communities.
Sources of support
Friend/s (63.6%), internet (44.3%) and parent/s or guardian/s (43.5%) were the most commonly cited sources of help for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people with psychological distress. Smaller proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents than non-
Indigenous respondents with psychological distress said they would turn to close personal connections for help, such as friend/s, parent/s or guardian/s, a GP or health professional, school counsellor, brother/sister or a relative/family friend.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have identified challenges in relation to mainstream models of health care offered and their affordability. Aboriginal Controlled Health Organisations have a strong role to play and should be appropriately funded.
Conversely, greater proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents indicated turning to a community agency, social media or a telephone hotline for help. Community agencies therefore need to be funded to provide culturally appropriate support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people experiencing psychological distress.
A greater proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents indicated concerns about suicide (40.2% compared with 35.6% of non-Indigenous respondents).
The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide is a critical public health challenge for Australia. Over the 5 years from 2013 to 2017, one in four Australian children and young people aged 5-17 years who died by suicide were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.86
Designed to complement the mainstream National Suicide Prevention Strategy, the 2013 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy87 was developed to respond to this public health challenge. It recognises the need for investment in holistic and integrated approaches that helps individuals, families and communities have hope for, and optimism about, the future.
In addition to mainstream integrated approach interventions, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) highlighted the need for community- led, locally-based and culturally-appropriate ‘upstream’ preventative activities to address community-level challenges associated with suicide.
Further, ATSISPEP underlined the need for programs that build on cultural determinants of social and emotional wellbeing and its protective factors to have a positive impact against complex mental health challenges, including risks of suicide.88
Recognising the intersectionality between mental health, suicide and substance dependence, the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing requires the integration of mental health, alcohol and other drug, and suicide prevention services in communities.89 However, the Strategy needs a focused implementation plan that is properly costed and operationalised if it is to shape the mental health space.
Part 3 National : Closing the Gap / Have your say CTG deadline extended to Friday, 8 November 2019.
The engagements are now in full swing across Australia and this is generating more interest than we had anticipated in our survey on Closing the Gap.
The Coalition of Peaks has had requests from a number of organisations across Australia seeking, some Coalition of Peak members and some governments for more time to promote and complete the survey.
We want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have their say on what should be included in a new agreement on Closing the Gap so it is agreed to extend the deadline for the survey to Friday, 8 November 2019.
This will help build further understanding and support for the new agreement and will not impact our timeframes for negotiating with government as we were advised at the most recent Partnership Working Group meeting that COAG will not meet until early 2020.
There is a discussion booklet that has background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be talked about in the survey.
The survey will take a little bit of time to complete. It would be great if you can answer all the questions, but you can also just focus on the issues that you care about most.
To help you prepare your answers, you can look at a full copy here
The survey is open to everyone and can be accessed here: