Journal article

Computerised emotional well-being and substance use questionnaires in young Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian adults

Indigenous mental health Indigenous health Aboriginal Australian youth Northern Territory

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (hereafter respectfully referred to collectively as Indigenous Australians) fare worse than other Australians on almost every measure of physical and mental health. Indigenous Australians experience high rates of psychological distress, an increased number of stressful life events and have high rates of suicide.

This research investigates the methodology of computerised questionnaires in assessing the emotional well-being and substance use in Indigenous and non-Indigenous young adults.

Importance of Study:
Mental health disorders rank among the most substantial causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Almost half of Australian adults experience mental illness at some point in their lifetime, with Indigenous Australians disproportionally affected. Thus, it is imperative that effective, acceptable screening tools are used, which are tailored to the target population.

Cross-sectional data from young adults (21–28 years) in the Life Course Program, Northern Territory, Australia, are presented. Through an extensive consultation process, validated questionnaires were adapted to a computerised format suitable for both remote and urban residing Indigenous and non-Indigenous adults.

Of the 576 participants (459 Indigenous, 117 non-Indigenous) available for assessment, high consent rates were seen, with completion rates >86%. One in three young adults in this cohort were highlighted as ‘at risk’ of psychological distress, and one in five as ‘at risk’ of suicidal ideation or self-harm.

The target population of this study were at a critical age with high levels of psychological distress and suicidal ideation reported, particularly in Indigenous young adults. This simple, user-friendly, pictorial programme allowed assessment of a sensitive topic anonymously, while simultaneously collating data and identifying those at high risk, irrespective of literacy level or cultural background.

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