NACCHO Aboriginal Mental Health News : Download @MenziesResearch and @orygen_aus A practice guide for ‘Improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 ” Menzies Research and Orygen Australia have developed & just published a practice guide for ‘Improving the Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’.

Little is known about how best to practically meet the social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) needs of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly those with severe and complex mental health needs.

Yet, there is an urgent need for health programs and services to be more responsive to the mental health needs of this population.

Based on recent statistics, 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 4-14 years have experienced one or more of the following stressors:

  • death of family/friend;
  • being scared or upset by an argument or someone’s behaviour; and
  • keeping up with school work. “

Download the Report HERE ( See PDF for all research references )

orygen-Practice-Guide-to-improve-the-social-and-emotional-wellbeing-of-young-Aboriginal-and-Torres-Strait-Islander-people

Read over 250 Aboriginal Mental Health articles published by NACCHO over past 8 Years

It is well documented that there are:

  • high rates of psychological distress, mental health conditions, and suicide noted among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people when compared to non-Aboriginal young people;
  • a lack of evidence-based and culturally informed resources to educate and assist health professionals to work with this population; and
  • notable gaps between knowledge and practice, which limits opportunities to improve the SEWB of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This promising practice guide draws on an emerging, yet disparate, evidence-base about promising practices aimed at improving the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. It aims to support service providers, commissioners, and policy-makers to adopt strengths-based, equitable and culturally responsive approaches that better meet the SEWB needs of this high-risk population.

Rationale

The Australian Government appointed Orygen to provide Australia’s 31 Primary Health Networks (PHNs) with expert leadership and support in commissioning youth mental health initiatives.

Orygen has subsequently commissioned Menzies School of Health Research to identify and document promising practice service approaches in improving SEWB among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with severe and complex mental health needs. This promising practice guide is an output of that work.

What do we know about the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people?

It is recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies provided the optimal condition for their community members’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing before European settlement.

However, the Australian Psychological Society has acknowledged that these optimal conditions have been continuously eroded through colonisation in parallel with an increase in mental health concerns.2

There is clear evidence about the disproportionate burden of SEWB and mental health concerns experienced among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The key contributors to the disease burden among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 10-24 years are:1 suicide and self-inflicted injuries (13 per cent), anxiety disorder (eight per cent) and alcohol use disorders (seven per cent).3

Based on recent statistics, 67 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people aged 4-14 years have experienced one or more of the following stressors:

  • death of family/friend;
  • being scared or upset by an argument or someone’s behaviour; and
  • keeping up with school work.4

The stressors have a cumulative impact as these children transition into adolescence and early adulthood. Another study has shown that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are at higher risk of emotional and behavioural difficulties.5

This is linked to major life stress events such as family dysfunction; being in the care of a sole parent or other carers; having lived in a lot of different homes; being subjected to racism; physical ill-health of young people and/or carers; carer access to mental health services; and substance use disorders. These factors are all closely intertwined.

Relevant national frameworks and action plans

The Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 (2015) was developed by the Australian Government Department of Health in close consultation with the National Health Leadership Forum. It has a strong emphasis on a whole-of-government approach to addressing the key priorities identified throughout the plan.

The overarching vision is to ensure that the strategies and actions of the plan respond to the health and wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across their life course. This includes a focus on young people.6

The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 provides more specific direction by highlighting the importance of preventive actions that focus on children and young people.7 This includes:

  • strengthening the foundation;
  • promoting wellness;
  • building capacity and resilience in people and groups at risk;
  • provide care for people who are mildly or moderately ill; and
  • care for people living with severe mental illness.

In addition, the National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young People 2020-2030 identifies building health equity, including principles of proportionate universalism, as a key action area and identifies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people as a priority population.8

Social and emotional wellbeing frameworks relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 

Over the past decades, multiple frameworks have been developed to support the SEWB of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.4-8 These have identified some common elements, domains, principles, action areas and methods.7, 9-12

One of the most comprehensive frameworks is the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023, which has a foundation of development over many years.13

It has nine guiding principles:

  1. Health as a holistic concept: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is viewed in a holistic context that encompasses mental health and physical, cultural and spiritual health. Land is central to wellbeing. Crucially, it must be understood that while the harmony of these interrelations is disrupted, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ill-health will persist.
  2. The right to self-determination: Self-determination is central to the provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services and considered a fundamental human right.
  3. The need for cultural understanding: Culturally valid understandings must shape the provision of services and must guide assessment, care and management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health problems generally and mental health concerns more specifically. This necessitates a culturally safe and responsive approach through health program and service delivery.
  4. The impact of history in trauma and loss: It must be recognised that the experiences of trauma and loss, a direct result of colonialism, are an outcome of the disruption to cultural wellbeing. Trauma and loss of this magnitude continue to have intergenerational impacts.
  5. Recognition of human rights: The human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be recognised and respected. Failure to respect these human rights constitutes continuous disruption to mental health (in contrast to mental illness/ill health). Human rights specifically relevant to mental illness must be addressed.
  6. The impact of racism and stigma: Racism, stigma, environmental adversity and social disadvantage constitute ongoing stressors and have negative impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and wellbeing.
  7. Recognition of the centrality of kinship: The centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and kinship must be recognised as well as the broader concepts of family and the bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and sharing.
  8. Recognition of cultural diversity: There is no single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture or group, but numerous groupings, languages, kinship systems and tribes. Furthermore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in a range of urban, rural or remote settings where expressions of culture and identity may differ.
  9. Recognition of Aboriginal strengths: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have great strengths, creativity and endurance and a deep understanding of the relationships between human beings and their environment.13

While the principles outlined above are not specific to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, they are considered to be appropriate within the context of adopting a holistic life-course approach.

What’s happening in practice?

This promising practice guide attempts to collate disparate strands of evidence that relate to enhancing youth mental health; improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander SEWB; and strategies for addressing severe and complex mental health needs.

It has been well documented that there are significant limitations in the evaluation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs and services across Australia.22-24 The Australian Governments’ Productivity Commission Inquiry into

Mental Health and the Lowitja Institute are, at the time of producing this document, looking at ways to strengthen work in this space.24, 25

In the absence of high-quality evaluation reports, the term ‘promising practice’ is used throughout this guide.

This is consistent with the terminology used by the Australian Psychological Society through its project about SEWB and mental health services in Australia (http://www.sewbmh.org.au/).

It adopts a strengths-based approach26 which acknowledges and celebrates efforts made to advance work in this space in the absence of strong practice-based evidence.

This is achieved through the presentation of five active case studies.

These reflect organizational, systems and practice focused service model examples. The principles included in the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 have been mapped against each case study to illustrate how these privilege Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, doing and being.

Each case study includes generic background information to provide important contextual information; key messages or lessons learned, and reflections from staff involved in the project.

They have been developed in consultation with both the commissioning PHN and the service/organisation funded to develop and/or deliver the framework, program and service. Where possible, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders were consulted during the development of the case studies.

Need help ?

Contact your nearest ACCHO or

If the situation is an emergency please call 000
If you wish to speak to someone immediately who can help call:

Kids Help Line

1800 55 1800
www.kidshelpline.com.au

Lifeline Australia

13 11 14
www.lifeline.org.au

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