Objective: It has been acknowledged that the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been “bedeviled” by the inappropriate application of non-Indigenous models of mental health. To enhance Indigenous health and well-being it is necessary for non-Indigenous practitioners to find a culturally safe way to enter the negotiated space of cross-cultural mental health. This will be facilitated through understanding both the points of similarity and divergence in perspectives of mental health across cultures. The current study aimed to explore urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s understandings of mental health using a social emotional well-being and cognitive behavioural framework.
Method: A qualitative research project was conducted with a sample of 19 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Data were collected via individual semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify themes within the data.
Results: Qualitative: Four themes emerged as reflecting health and well-being—coping skills, knowledge, social support, and connectedness. The theme of connectedness to country, family and kinship, cultural knowledge, and social networks emerged as reflecting a unique contribution to Indigenous health and well-being. However, the themes of coping skills, knowledge, and social support shared cross-cultural meaning. In particular, coping skills identified in the behavioural, emotional, and cognitive domains shared many cross-culturally applicable avenues for intervention.
Conclusions: Therapeutic interventions in these domains are already well established within cognitive behaviour therapies. Cross-cultural understandings within these themes offer clinicians a culturally safe avenue for supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and well-being.