Mental Health - Cultural Healing

22 October 2021

NALHN’s Cultural Healing Team have been supporting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community members to access culturally appropriate specialist mental health care for over three years.

The Cultural Healing team currently consists of three male and female Aboriginal Mental Health Support Workers. The team works with specialist mental health consumers closely in a culturally specific way and in collaboration with the consumer, their families/carers and the specialist mental health treating team.

The primary focus of the team is to create a cultural bridge for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people and their caregivers to ensure they have access to the best possible treatment and care while developing a culturally safe and positive working relationship with mental health specialists to optimise positive mental health and wellbeing outcomes.

The team actively work across NALHNs mental health services including Forensic Mental Health Services, Older Person Mental Health Services and Adult Mental Health Services.

Joel Tessman (pictured) is one of the Aboriginal Mental Health Support Workers who has been with NALHN for six years, previously working at Watto Purrunna Aboriginal Primary Health Care Services where he was employed as an Aboriginal Health Practitioner.

Pictured - Joel is one of three members of our Cultural Healing Team

“I have lived experience with mental health, so I want to be the person to help guide and support my people when they are going through their mental health journey,” said Joel.

“Sometimes the Aboriginal community has a negative outlook on mental health due to past traumas, so our role is extremely important. We provide a familiar face, have experience accessing the mental health service and can help connect family and culture through the service.”

The Cultural Healing Team supports consumers in a range of ways. This includes providing culturally appropriate information to mental health care professionals at clinical reviews or outpatient appointments and ensuring that culturally specific practice is implemented across all clinical and psychosocial supports. They also assist in facilitating access to the Emergency Department and inpatient wards when required and provide practical advice to the consumer and their kin to assist with their health care and recovery. Where appropriate they refer to other Aboriginal services as required and identify pathways to traditional healing and/or interpreters. Additionally, the team provide culturally specific consultation to clinical staff and other community care workers to support staff and services to develop culturally specific skills.

“Mental health conditions cannot be fixed straight away; healing happens over time. So, if you have a familiar face, the right support and services it makes life a little bit easier.”

Once an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is referred to a specialist mental health service they can be connected to the Cultural Healing Team. Their primary focus is supporting people who currently access NALHNs mental health services and ensuring they receive culturally specific support and provided the care they need when they require it.