Dudgeon, P., Derry, K. L., Arabena, K., Brideson, T., Cairney, S., Calma, T., Dalton, T., Darwin, L., Duarte, B., Dyall, D., Gee, G., Gibson, P., Gray, P., Groth, A., Hirvonen, T., Holland, C., Mascall, C., McPhee, R., Milroy, H., Milroy, J., Mohamed, J., Mohamed, J., Murray, D., Orazi, K., Ryder, A., Schmerl, R., Smallwood, G., Sutherland, S., Weston, R., & Wright, M. (2020). A National COVID-19 Pandemic Issues Paper on Mental Health and Wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing Grant, The University of Western Australia, Poche Centre for Indigenous Health.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 working party has been convened through the Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing Project at the University of Western Australia to produce an independent report that addresses the specific mental health, and social and emotional wellbeing needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia.
Research from previous pandemics shows clearly that an upsurge in the number and severity of mental health difficulties is likely in both the response and recovery phases. To avoid further exacerbating adverse downstream impacts and long-term social and economic costs to society, the historic underinvestment in the mental health of Australia’s First Peoples must be addressed.
This report calls for a coordinated response based on best practice research in Indigenous psychology and mental health. Indigenous governance must be prioritised to manage the COVID-19 recovery in communities through equitable, needs-based funding to support strengths-based, place-based, Indigenous-led, and community-led initiatives that address the social and cultural determinants of health and wellbeing.
This report details five key recommendations focused on:
1) right to self-determination
2) the health and mental health workforce
3) social and cultural determinants of health
4) digital and telehealth inclusion with immediate attention to an Indigenous helpline
5) evaluation that includes Indigenous data sovereignty