Mental Health Toolkit for Health Practitioners working with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Project Type - Indigenous health, Mental health, Research


  • 2009


The Department of Health (formerly the Department of Health and Ageing) engaged Health Outcomes International (HOI) to undertake a ‘Scoping Study’ for the development of a culturally appropriate mental health toolkit, for non-medical health practitioners working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Non-medical Health Practitioners include Aboriginal Health Workers, Substance Use workers, Bringing Them Home workers, Nurses and Mental Health workers.


The Scoping Study was sought to:

  • identify existing information and resources and assessment/screening tools on mental health and social and emotional wellbeing (including substance use) targeted at non medical health practitioners (Aboriginal Health Workers and other clinic staff) working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • determine what resources, information and assessment/screening tools non-medical health practitioners require and would find useful in identifying symptoms of mental illness and making appropriate referrals for treatment 
  • recommend appropriate forms in which resources could be made available, for example, toolkit development, establishment of a clearing house, adaptation of existing resources and dissemination and training in use of existing resources.


The key methodological components for the scoping study included:

  • extensive consultations with State and Territory OATSIH Offices; State and Territory Departments of Health; NACCHO Affiliates; ‘Technical Experts’; and service provider staff. This was generally achieved by a small team visiting a State/Territory for a week and meeting with representatives from each of the stakeholder groups.
  • workforce surveys developed to provide a complementary (to the direct consults) means for gathering the views of the non-medical health practitioner workforce.
  • a stakeholder workshop was conducted in Canberra to discuss the Scoping Study findings and recommendations. 


The scoping study revealed an extensive range of ‘mainstream’ information and resources and screening and assessment tools that have been developed for use in the areas of Social and Emotional Wellbeing, Mental Health and Drug and Alcohol.


Based on the scoping study, HOI developed 3 toolkit options and presented them to workshop participants. The strengths and weaknesses of each were comprehensively discussed and an option was decided upon.