This Project is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.
The Social Health Reference Group (SHRG) for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council and National Mental Health Working Group - responsible for developing the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' Mental Health and Well Being 2004 - 2009 - drew an important distinction between the concepts of 'social and emotional wellbeing' used in Indigenous settings and the term 'mental health' used in non-Indigenous settings:
The concept of mental health comes more from an illness or clinical perspective and its focus is more on the individual and their level of functioning in their environment. The social and emotional wellbeing concept is broader than this and recognises the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community, and how these affect the individual (p.9).
Social and emotional wellbeing (and mental health) form part of the holistic view of health. This extract is from the same document:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is viewed in a holistic context that encompasses mental health and physical, cultural and spiritual health. Land, family and spirituality are central to wellbeing. It must be recognised that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have great strengths, creativity and endurance and a deep understanding of the relationships between human beings and their environment. The centrality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and kinship must be recognised as well as the broader concepts of family, and the bonds of reciprocal affection, responsibility and caring.
Self-determination is central to the provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services. Culturally valid understandings must shape the provision of services and must guide assessment, care and management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's health, and mental health problems in particular.
As such, meeting the need for services addressing the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal communities requires specialised knowledge and skills.