INTERGENERATIONAL trauma from a long history of cultural disconnection, violence and loss of land, has seen a disproportionate burden placed on the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous young people.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 24 and under are three times more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous Australians.
Culturally appropriate support is sorely needed to recognise the connection between mental health and Indigenous identity.
The National Youth Mental Health Foundation headspace, provides early intervention mental health services for 12-25 year olds.
Its Take a Step campaign aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to take charge of their mental wellbeing.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural practice and engagement coordinator at headspace, William Oui, said the program understands the importance of holistic wellbeing.
“Take a Step understands… the ways our culture, identity, place and spirituality can make us feel strong,” Mr Oui said.
The initiative provides a range of resources for Indigenous young people, including interactivity pursuits and virtual discussions, to help recognise when something’s wrong and the steps they can take to feel better.
Take a Step was developed with the help of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members across Australia, including a reference group of Indigenous young people with lived experience of mental ill-health.
Mr Oui said “this is a campaign for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who understand that it’s important to yarn up and seek help when you’re not feeling too deadly.
“There are also resources that empower family and friends to recognise when young people are having a hard time and what can be done to support them,” he said.
Ngarrindjeri woman, Nikia Bailey, was part of the headspace youth reference group and said that stigma around mental health can make it difficult to seek help.
“But I want people to understand how our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures can empower us to take care of our social and emotional wellbeing,” she said.
“When I am having a hard time, my connections with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples help me understand that I am not alone.
“We have a shared experience and can support one another.
“I know [this campaign] will start some important conversations in my community and will hopefully encourage more young people like me to take the first steps towards better social and emotional wellbeing.”
If you are concerned about yourself or someone you care about, please contact Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline – 13 11 14
Jessica Roberts is a Masters of Journalism and International Relations student at Monash University. She is interested in advocating for women’s empowerment, amplifying the voices of marginalised communities and creating a society more inclusive and welcoming of minority groups. Jessica is passionate about writing stories that help make a difference.