12. Sep, 2016

Upcoming Research in Moora

From Deficit to Resilience: Exploring the Impact of Negative Emotions in the Lives of Indigenous Australians





Social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) was coined in the late 1980s (Bamblett, Frederico, Harrison, Jackson, & Lewis, 2012). It is a holistic definition integrating the total wellbeing of Indigenous people (Gee, Dudgeon, Shultz, Hart, & Kelly, 2014). SEWB encompasses physical and mental health, and aspects of the traumatic history associated with the burden of mental health problems (Garvey, 2008). There are four validated measures of SEWB: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (3-16 years); the Westerman Aboriginal Symptoms Checklist for Youth (13-17 at risk of depression, suicide and anxiety); the K6+ (a measure of psychological distress); and Strong Souls (a measure of anxiety, depression, suicide risk and resilience) (Thomas, Cairney, Gunthorpe, Paradies, & Sayers, 2010). However, these measures to not account for the underlying processes of cognition and affect.

The current aim is to breach existing knowledge gaps in Indigenous mental health whilst respecting that it is to be understood from a perspective embedded in cultural differences (Reser, 1991). The specific focus are the processes leading to emotional maladjustment (EM). The difficulty is that the meaning of expressions such as ‘emotional problems’ is unclear (Reser, 1991). Perhaps the connectivity principle of SEWB (i.e., connections to spirituality, ancestors, kinship, community, culture, country, mind, body, and emotion (Gee, Dudgeon, Shultz, Hart, & Kelly, 2014)) is a factor that reduces attention to internal processes and hence there is little indication of emotionality. However, the most compelling argument of why maladjustment is unconsidered is that EM is a negative construal of wellbeing. Overall SEWB frames the study of emotion, leading to that research being considered in relation to intergenerational trauma (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, 2016) as well as other negative factors (e.g., discrimination, racism, grief and loss, social exclusion, economic and social disadvantage, incarceration, exposure to violence, substance abuse and physical health problems, (Zubrick, Shepherd, Dudgeon, Gee, Paradies, Scrine, & Walker, 2014)). According to this framework, the locus of any un-wellness is situated in the external forum, and not within the individual. Hence there is no association of un-wellness with the individual, just the situational factors. However, in recognition of the necessity of both approaches to SEWB, researching the construct EM is deemed valid in so far as the historical trauma that has been normalised and transmitted within Indigenous culture, lives in them in the present (Atkinson, 2013).

Note: References supplied on demand