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Keywords:

  • Aboriginal men;
  • help seeking;
  • Indigenous men;
  • mental health;
  • mental health problem;
  • service utilization

Abstract

Aims

Mental illness is widespread among Aboriginal men in Australia. However, they do not access mental health services in proportion to their need. Although several reports implicate cultural differences of mental health services as the cause of underutilization, very little is known about help seeking by Aboriginal men who are mentally unwell. This study explores the help-seeking behaviour of Aboriginal men who are mentally unwell in a rural Victorian community.

Methods

The study was carried out using a combination of culturally appropriate research methodologies. Within a Qualitative Description design, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a range of Aboriginal people including men, carers and those involved in service delivery. A total of 17 Aboriginal people were interviewed, of whom 15 were men. Data were analysed thematically.

Results

Four themes emerged from the data collected. They included ‘Difficulty in recognizing mental health problems’, ‘Barriers to disclosing one's problems’, ‘Reluctance to contact services’ and ‘Alternate coping strategies’.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that there is a need for programmes that aim to improve mental health literacy and promote help seeking among Aboriginal men who are mentally unwell. Such programmes need to be developed jointly by mental health services as well as Aboriginal stakeholders, and implemented in a culturally sensitive and acceptable way.