The Problem: In a recent study by CI Rae and Mah, the mental health of a cohort of Indigenous women during pregnancy showed extremely high rates of depression and anxiety in participants, with 31% of the cohort reporting evidence of these symptoms at least one visit during their pregnancy. Factors that enhance susceptibility to stress include personality traits, early life experiences and resilience.
An estimated 71% of Indigenous Australian adults have been identified with low to moderate levels of distress and a further 27% with high to very high levels of psychological distress levels in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (2004-05). In the categories of highest distress, Indigenous women were more likely to be represented than men (32% vs 21% respectively). Women and carers of Indigenous infants and preschool age children are more likely to have compromised social and emotional wellbeing when compared to those women and carers of non-Indigenous infants and children.
The communities of Forster (Tobwabba Aboriginal Medical Service), Taree (Biripi Aboriginal Medical Service) and the Gomeroi gaaynggal Aboriginal Steering committee have approached CIA Rae to undertake research to determine if culturally rich arts programs can improve the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous women.
Approaches: It is hypothesised that women who undertake an ArtsHealth pilot program will experience increased happiness, an improvement in mental health wellbeing, a reduction in psychological distress, and an increase in social networking and support.
This pilot project will use methods that prioritise the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities and bridge the gap between scientific methodology and holistic community approaches to research.
A/Prof Kym Rae, Dr Beth Mah, Prof Deb Loxton