Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are varied and have a diversity among their cultures that is not often acknowledged in mainstream Australian society. Even with this diversity, almost all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face poor mental health outcomes, and are among the highest risk-groups in Australia when it comes to depression and suicide.
Aboriginal people experience unique cultural and social factors, and face challenges others Australians do not from day-to-day life. Loss, grief, disconnection from land and culture – all of these things affect Aboriginal people in ways that they do not affect other Australians. Cultural concepts of shame about seeking help from non-Aboriginal health services or even about feeling down at all can prevent Aboriginal people from seeking help.
There are free social and emotional wellbeing services available to Aboriginal people and communities that acknowledge the cultural values important to wellbeing in different Aboriginal communities. Many of these services are also confidential and Aboriginal-led, developed and driven. The importance of the holistic understanding of the lives of Aboriginal people as well as acknowledging a connection to the land are key elements of these services.
For non-Aboriginal people, or people offering mental health aid to individuals from other cultures, it is important to be respectful and knowledgeable of the culture of the community with which you are engaging, as well as support what kind of culturally-based care that person may seek. There are resources online for individuals who are interested in what behaviours, languages and attitudes they should be mindful of when discussing mental health with a person from another culture.