“My connection to Aboriginal culture really helped me feel whole and find that sense of family and connection. It was what I always wanted but didn’t have, and was why I felt so empty.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing combines mental, physical, cultural, and spiritual health of the individual as well as the whole community. For this reason, the term "social and emotional wellbeing" is usually preferred over terms like "mental health" and "mental illness".
Addressing social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples calls for the recognition of human rights, the strength of family, and the recognition of cultural diversity. This includes language, kinship, traditional lifestyles, and geographical locations (urban, rural, and remote).
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander identity is about heritage, culture, upbringing, connection, and life experiences. Within these populations, there are many languages and cultures, each with their own way of understanding and addressing issues around social and emotional wellbeing.
If you are concerned that someone you know who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is struggling with their wellbeing, there are things you can be mindful of to make your support more meaningful. Providing a culturally safe environment, being respectful of culture, and being aware of how you respond are important first steps. It can be helpful to involve family, carers, or other community members in providing support.
If you want to support someone, but aren’t sure where to start, take a look at our page on support for carers. We also have information on how to support someone. Or you can get started with the resources further down this page.
A closer look
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia is relatively small, but increasing
Transgenerational loss and trauma
Connection to country
Increased risk for poor social and emotional wellbeing
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who identify as LGBTI are likely to have compounded risk
I want to let people know that it’s okay to talk to someone when you're feeling unwell. The perceptions within Aboriginal communities are not going to change so you have to find a way that works for you. It can be hard to find someone who you feel won't tell your business everywhere.
I've been unwell on and off all my life, but it was really hard to pin down. Issues would come and go. There were so many things happening to me that I couldn’t explain. I didn’t start looking for a diagnosis till my late thirties.
You might find online and phone-based mental health resources helpful. Some suggestions are below. You can find more with our Search tool.