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The impact of climate change on country and community and the role of mental health professionals working with Aboriginal communities in recovery and promoting resilience

International Journal of Mental Health Nursing

10 June 2023

Upward., K, Usher., K, Saunders., V.


This paper emerged from discussions between the authors about our shared and different perspectives of climate change and its impact on the social, emotional, physical, spiritual and cultural wellbeing of Aboriginal Peoples and mental health services in a rural region, heavily impacted in recent years by bushfires and floods. Here we discuss, from the lead authors personal perspective as a Gamilaraay Woman, the experience of Solastalgia as a critical impact of climate change on wellbeing. Specifically, we discuss the relationship of a connection to country from a Gamilaraay, first person perspective through a series of diary entries from the lead author. Authors are researchers from different cultural backgrounds, connected through a medical research futures fund research project, to promote resilience within Aboriginal communities and the health services sector in the New England, North West region. The lead author has cultural connections to some of the communities we work with and our work is informed by these connections. While this paper was written to express an Aboriginal perspective on climate change and wellbeing, it reflects our shared perspectives of how disasters such as bushfires impact the wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples. We also explore the connection between the impact of localised, recurring natural disasters and the increasing demands on mental health services in regional and rural areas and discuss what this means with Aboriginal and non-Indigenous mental health nurses and researchers working in regional and rural areas where access to mental health services often poses considerable challenges. From our perspective, mental health research and nursing play an important role in walking alongside Aboriginal Peoples as we explore, respond and create resilience to the ever-present influence that climate change is having on our lives, communities, country and workplaces.

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