Mental health nursing practice and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: an integrative review

Publication Name

Contemporary Nurse


Background: For nearly thirty years, significant concerns have been raised about the public-provided mental health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Staff have been identified as having little understanding of Indigenous culture, and this had resulted in inappropriate treatment. In attempting to understand what specialist knowledge exists to guide mental health nursing practice with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the authors have turned to published peer-reviewed literature. Methods: The approach chosen to explore this area was an integrative review. This provided a method to identify, analyse, and synthesise a wide range of literature. Results: The available evidence points to the need that treatment planning must be focused on the promotion of social and emotional wellbeing and not simply the treatment of symptoms. It also emphasises the importance of cultural safety informed by awareness and understanding of social, cultural and historical factors that can impact the health and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Within the literature, staff reported difficulty in understanding how knowledge about social and emotional wellbeing could translate into practice. Nurses working in mental health contexts reported not feeling adequately prepared for, or confident in this area of practice. Conclusions: There is a paucity of current literature on mental health nursing practice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, with the literature available not providing clear guidance for effective and meaningful practice.

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