Effectiveness of Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing programs examined in new reports

Programs aimed at promoting social and emotional wellbeing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that have been shown to be effective are those with Indigenous ownership and support according to two new papers released today on the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse website.

Strategies and practices for promoting the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people focuses on social and emotional well-being programs, while the paper Strategies to minimise the incidence of suicide and suicidal behaviour, provides a review of policies and programs that aim to prevent suicide and suicidal behaviour.

In 2008, nearly one-third (32%) of Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over reported high or very high levels of psychological distress-more than twice the proportion for non-Indigenous adults. The Indigenous suicide rate is also estimated to be about double that of the non-Indigenous population.

Programs that operate in isolation from, or do not address the legacy of past trauma, past and current racism, and issues such as poverty and homelessness, were not as effective as other programs in promoting social and emotional well-being and preventing suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The programs that are particularly effective are those that have a high level of Indigenous ownership and community support. Further, both international studies and Australian data show that Indigenous people who speak their own languages have better resilience and mental health.

The Indigenous hip hop program run by the BeyondBlue organisation was effective in promoting positive mental health among young people. The program incorporated traditional culture fused with hip hop, rap, beat boxing and break dancing, and resulted in increased self-esteem, preparedness to talk to family and friends about mental health, and ability to see signs of depression in others.

In addition, interventions involving 'motivational care planning' (motivating people to self-manage and solve their own problems step-by-step) were shown to improve wellbeing in Indigenous people with a mental illness in remote communities.

The Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (http://www.aihw.gov.au/closingthegap/) is jointly funded by all Australian governments and provides an online source of information on what works to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage. It is delivered by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

Canberra, 12 February 2013

Further information: Nigel Harding, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1025 mob. 0409 307 671