World Mental Health Day was on the 10th of October and coincided with Mental Health Week that ran from the 9th until the 15th of October. The aim of these events is to promote social and emotional wellbeing, remove the stigma around the issue and encourage people to look after their health. As one in four adults will experience some sort of mental health problem in their life it is important to ensure that individuals, families and communities know how to cope with this and be able to seek help when it is needed. Mental health issues can have a major effect on people’s lives and many people often feel isolated or discriminated against making it hard for them to recover.
Many Indigenous children are subject to mental health issues that are linked to the high incarceration rates. Research has shown that 24% of West Australian Aboriginal children between the ages of 4 and 17 years have shown signs of severe emotional or behaviour difficulties. In addition to this, they also have high rates of disabilities and diseases such as diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer. Mental health can be affected by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. One of the key factors that contribute to the high rate of Indigenous children with mental health issues is the social and economic disadvantages. It has been shown that individuals who live in poverty are more likely to develop mental health issues. As they face a high rate of unemployment many children also do not receive an education and they can feel disconnected from society. Furthermore, due to the discrimination they face they are more likely to develop depression and psychological distress and turn to substances such as alcohol or drugs as a form of escape.
There are significant barriers that Indigenous children face in relation to mental health that needs to addressed. Many Indigenous children don’t have access to the necessary mental health services in their communities or they feel too afraid to speak about their mental health. This is why it’s so important to remove the stigma around mental health and raise awareness on this issue to allow individuals to talk about it more easily.
If you need help and want to talk to a counsellor, you can call Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 that is available 24 hours for 7 days a week. You can also chat to someone online on their website: https://kidshelpline.com.au/