Social and Emotional Wellbeing

The term social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) is used by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to describe the social, emotional, spiritual and cultural wellbeing of a person [28917]. The term recognises their connection to land, sea, culture, spirituality, family and community which are important to people and impact on their wellbeing [28917][38676]. It also recognises that a person’s social and emotional wellbeing is influenced by policies and past events [38123][31181].

Another term that is often used when discussing wellbeing is mental health. Mental health is a term that has been used to describe how people think and feel, and how they cope with and take part in everyday life [34695]. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people observe mental health and mental illness as medical terms that focus too much on problems and do not properly describe all the factors that make up and influence wellbeing [28917]. Because of this, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prefer the term social and emotional wellbeing as it fits well within a holistic view of health [33834]. One way of understanding these different terms is to think of mental health and mental illness as part of a person’s social and emotional wellbeing [28917].

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and self-determination can be powerful protective factors in providing a buffer to psychological distress. Factors that have been identified as enhancing SEWB include; maintaining connection to country, spirituality, ancestry and kinship networks, as well as strong community governance and cultural continuity [29074]. Renewal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and Indigenous knowledge systems and the capacity for self-determination is increasingly being seen as fundamental to healing and supporting social and emotional wellbeing [41496].

Social and emotional wellbeing may change across an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person’s life course; what is important to a child may be quite different to what is important to an Elder [33834]. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the understanding of social and emotional wellbeing can also vary between different cultural groups and individuals [28917].

References

Key resources

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Artwork

Untitled by Donna Lei Rioli

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