“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.” – Leilani
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing combines mental, physical, cultural, and spiritual health of not only the individual, but the whole community. For this reason, the term “social and emotional wellbeing” is generally preferred and better understood than terms like "mental health" and "mental illness".
Addressing social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples requires the recognition of human rights, the strength of family, and the recognition of cultural diversity - including 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 may 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.
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