'Yarning about Mental Health' during International Mental Health Week

October 12, 2006

A new booklet, supported by the Menzies School of Health Research (MSHR), which uses pictures and traditional aboriginal stories to identify and explain mental health problems has been developed by researchers for use in remote Top End aboriginal communities.

The booklet, 'Yarning about Mental Health', is part of a suite of tools which will improve the way in which Aboriginal Mental Health Workers explain some of the causes, symptoms and treatments of mental health problems to people in their communities.

The booklet talks about aspects of aboriginal life and culture which can help those suffering from metal health problems 'stay strong'. An example of a 'stay strong' plan developed by a young mother in a community with the help of the project team is...

'Things that keep me strong are Tiwi dancing and hunting and going to country and work and bush tucker like mangrove worms - which do everything good inside and are good for milk for baby. Family worry and violence and memory problems and not enough exercise and not sleeping and cigarettes take my strength away. I want to change and learn more about culture. So I can speak more language and pass it on to the kids. I want to learn about corroboree. I want to understand when they sing in ceremony. I want to stop fighting and arguing too.'

At the launch of the booklet during International Mental Health Week at the third AIMHI NT (Australian Integrated Mental Health Initiative in the Northern Territory) Seminar, MSHR researcher Tricia Nagel said that the diagnosis and treatment of mental health was a crucial part of the total wellbeing of entire Indigenous communities.

"The factors contributing to mental health are complex and no one issue can be viewed in isolation - drugs, violence, alcohol and social disadvantages are just some of the many factors which can contribute to an individuals' mental health and well-being" Ms Nagel said.

"It is important that we communicate these complexities to individuals and aboriginal communities in a way in which they can easily relate back to their lifestyle, culture and environment.

"This booklet acts as a step-by-step guide to help aboriginal mental health workers do this - allowing them to emphasize the things about an individuals life and culture that help them 'stay strong' rather than focusing on the negatives" she added.
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AIMHI NT is a National Health and Medical Research Council Strategic Partnership aiming to improve remote indigenous mental health outcomes. AIMHI NT has partner projects in North Queensland, rural Queensland and NSW, and is supported by the NT Department of Health and Community Services, the CRC for Aboriginal Health and the Top End Division of General Practice.

For more information about the booklet or other aspects of the AIMHI NT project, please contact Tricia Nagel at the Menzies School of Health Research on + 61 8 8922 8196.

Research Australia

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