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Introduction

The lived experiences that people within certain demographic groupings frequently stay hidden by dominant and privileged sections of the society. First Nation Australians are one such group, and they bring with them a rich and varied cultural history that has persisted for millennia, a complex system of customs, dialects, and tales. But underneath this heritage lurks a complicated set of problems, with mental health issues playing a key role in this. This presentation sets out on an in-depth investigation of the lived experiences of Australians of First Nations who struggle with persistent mental health issues. We seek to shed light on the intricate aspects of their trip by exploring the varied viewpoints they have, revealing three resonant themes. Through this investigation, we intend to learn more about the difficulties this priority group faces and the incredible resiliency that motivates their persistent commitment to mental health.

Theme 1: Cultural and Historical Context

Cultural and historical background have a significant role in shaping the lived experiences of First Nation Australians with chronic mental health disorders. Indigenous Australians' mental health has been permanently impacted by centuries of colonization, forced eviction from ancestral territories, and the suppression of cultural practices (Smallwood et al., 2021).

Historical Trauma

The difficulties with mental health that First Nation Australians suffer are unquestionably related to the effects of colonization that are still present today. A significant historical trauma has been caused by land loss, dislocation, and forced integration techniques. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a frequent manifestation of this trauma in the form of complex mental health illnesses (Menzies, 2019). According to estimates by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 24% of Indigenous Australians had a mental health or behavioral disorder that had been diagnosed, and 31% of Indigenous people reported having "high or very high" levels of psychological distress, which is a glaring example of the long-lasting effects of historical trauma (AIHW, 2022).

Cultural Healing

Aboriginal Australians frequently use their cultural history as a coping mechanism for long-term mental health issues. Regaining a sense of cultural identity, language, and community is essential for healing and resiliency (Salmon et al., 2018). Study by Pomerville & Gone (2019) has shown that cultural connections have a favorable impact on mental health. They emphasize that culturally based programs and therapies that place a strong emphasis on conventional medical procedures and cultural revival greatly improve the mental health of Indigenous people.

Stigma and Discrimination

Both within Indigenous communities and in general society, stigma and discrimination present serious obstacles for First Nation Australians who have chronic mental health disorders (Goetz et al., 2023). According to a study by Marwick et al. (2019), Indigenous Australians face disproportionately high rates of racial discrimination, which can be bad for their mental health. Furthermore, there is still widespread stigma associated with mental health problems. In addition to this, statistics by Beyond Blue reveal that in 2018, 33% of First Nations Peoples reported verbal racial abuse, down from 37% in 2016, and there is a "dose" effect, meaning that as the amount of racism rises, so does the likelihood of experiencing high or extremely high degrees of psychological distress (Beyond Blue, 2022).

Theme 2: Access to Culturally Appropriate Care

For First Nation Australians suffering from long-term mental health disorders, access to culturally competent mental health care continues to be a critical concern (Furlong & Finne, 2020). By highlighting the critical importance of culturally responsive techniques and illuminating the significant gaps in access to treatment, this topic highlights the stark differences in care.

Geographical barriers

Many Australian Indigenous communities are geographically isolated, which poses a significant obstacle to receiving mental health care (Furlong & Finne, 2020). According to statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Indigenous Australians who live in remote areas are more likely to experience psychological distress than non-Indigenous Australians, which highlights the urgent need for readily available mental health services (Nasir et al., 2018). The issues are made worse by the lack of mental health facilities specifically designed to meet the needs of Indigenous people, especially in remote locations, which leads to longer wait times and more challenges getting appropriate treatment (Duggan et al., 2020). The presence of of culturally incompetent mental health specialists makes the issue worse and adds another barrier to overcome in addition to geographic ones. Accessing healthcare professionals who are aware of the specific cultural perspectives and requirements of Indigenous Australians can be difficult (Wylie & McConkey, 2019). Due to a lack of culturally sensitive medical personnel, there may be distrust and unwillingness to seek care, which can exacerbate existing inequities in mental health outcomes (Anderson et al., 2021).

Community-Based Solutions

Some Indigenous groups have acted independently by creating community-led mental health programs in response to the lack of mainstream mental health treatments. In order to close the access gap and advance holistic health, these projects incorporate conventional medical procedures and social support systems from many cultural backgrounds (Pearson et al., 2020). As an example, a study by Page et al. (2022) revealed that culturally appropriate initiatives and community-led interventions dramatically promote mental well-being and lower obstacles to care. These initiatives encourage a sense of responsibility and autonomy by empowering communities to deal with mental health problems from within.

Cultural Competency Training

 Extensive cultural competency development for healthcare workers is essential to addressing the shortage of mentally healthy practitioners who are also culturally competent (henderson et al., 2018). Evidence from reports by organizations like the Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association (AIDA) shows how beneficial this training is at enhancing the health of Indigenous patients. (AIDA, 2022). As a result of this training, inequities in the state of mental health will be decreased since healthcare professionals will be better equipped to comprehend and respect the special needs and views of First Nation Australians.

Theme 3: Resilience and Strength

First Nations Australians who struggle with persistent mental illnesses show an admirable depth of endurance and courage that personifies the unbreakable human spirit in the face of overwhelming obstacles. A symbol of hope for the generations to come is offered by this subject, which honors their experiences.

 Resilience Through Connection

 For many Indigenous Australians, resilience is rooted in the strength of community and in a deep connection to one's family, culture, and country (Usher et al., 2021). These relationships are significant, as shown by the statistical evidence from (AIHW). According to the AIHW (2022), psychological discomfort is often less common among Indigenous Australians who report good family and community support networks. This emphasizes the function of social networks in reducing the effects of long-term mental health issues and fostering psychological and emotional resilience.

Storytelling and Artistic Expression

Indigenous cultures have a long history of storytelling and creative expression, which has made them effective tools for healing and raising awareness of mental health issues in Indigenous communities (Salmon et al., 2018). Evidence from programs like the "Black Dog Institute's Lived Experience Project" shows how telling personal tales through creative expression may be a transforming and de-stigmatizing approach. Individuals have a platform to express their mental health experiences and struggles through storytelling and art, which promotes compassion, comprehension, and community support (Black Dog Institute, 2023).

Artistic components like dancing, music, and storytelling are frequently incorporated into traditional Indigenous celebrations and rites. These rituals have profound spiritual value and are carried out to treat emotional and mental problems (Salmon et al., 2018). Engaging in these kinds of practices can enhance a person's spiritual wellbeing and give them a foundation for comprehending and managing their mental health issues (Tacon, 2019).

 Advocacy and Empowerment

Some First Nation Australians who have long-term mental health issues have turned to activism, working persistently to enhance community access to mental health care, lessen stigma, and encourage others to get help (McGorry et al., 2022). One outstanding example of such lobbying efforts is the group "Healing Our Spirit Worldwide." They promote the need for culturally appropriate and community-led support for mental health through their programs and projects in an effort to improve the mental and emotional health of Indigenous communities . This campaign is having a noticeable impact by raising awareness and influencing legislative reforms to put Indigenous mental health first (First Nations Helath Authority, 2023).

Conclusion

In conclusion, First Nation Australians' cultural and historical background, availability of culturally competent care, and extraordinary resilience all have a significant impact on how they experience living with prolonged mental health difficulties. With a high prevalence of emotional distress and mental wellness disorders, centuries of colonialism and historical tragedy have left lasting impacts on their mental health. The importance of culturally-based programs is highlighted by the fact that cultural healing and a rediscovery of one's cultural identity provide a route to recovery and resilience.But for many people, especially those who live in remote places, access to culturally acceptable mental health care continues to be a major problem. These challenges are made more challenging by geographic limitations and a shortage of healthcare workers who are sensitive to cultural differences. However, through their links to their communities, storytelling, creative expression, and other means, First Nation Australians show extraordinary strength and endurance. In addition to offering resources for healing, these tactics also fight stigma and provide people and communities the power to give mental health the priority it deserves. We can help create a more fair and inclusive mental health environment for all Australians by recognizing and supporting their individual experiences.

References

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Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association. (2022). AIDA Annual Report 2022. https://issuu.com/indigenousdoctors/docs/aida0005_annual_report_final_art_web

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Indigenous health and wellbeing. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/indigenous-health-and-wellbeing

Beyond Blue. (2022). Statistics. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/statistics

Black Dog Institute. (2023). Lived experience. https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/about/who-we-are/lived-experience/

Duggan, M., Harris, B., Chislett, W. K., & Calder, R. (2020). Nowhere else to go: Why Australia’s health system results in people with mental illness getting ‘stuck’in emergency departments. https://vuir.vu.edu.au/41956/1/nowhere-else-to-go-people-mental-illness-stuck-emergency-departments-report-mitchell-institute.pdf

 First Nations Health Authority. (2023). Healing Our Spirit Worldwide. https://www.fnha.ca/wellness/healing-our-spirit-worldwide

Furlong, Y., & Finnie, T. (2020). Culture counts: The diverse effects of culture and society on mental health amidst COVID-19 outbreak in Australia. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine37(3), 237-242. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2020.37

Goetz, C. J., Mushquash, C. J., & Maranzan, K. A. (2023). An integrative review of barriers and facilitators associated with mental health help seeking among indigenous populations. Psychiatric Services74(3), 272-281. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.202100503

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Salmon, M., Doery, K., Dance, P., Chapman, J., Gilbert, R., Williams, R., & Lovett, R. (2018). Defining the indefinable: Descriptors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ cultures and their links to health and wellbeing. https://doi.org/10.25911/5bdbcdf5c89a7

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Tacon, P. S. (2019). Connecting to the Ancestors: Why rock art is important for Indigenous Australians and their well-being. Rock Art Research: The Journal of the Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA)36(1), 5-14. https://search.informit.org/doi/abs/10.3316/ielapa.392956435680766

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