Anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are common mental health conditions that can impact individuals, families and communities [37669]. Anxiety is a person’s natural response to a threat in their surroundings. It is normal for a person to feel anxious when they are under pressure, however when these feelings become more frequent, cannot be controlled or impact on a person’s day-to-day functioning, they can develop into an anxiety condition [30122][43131].

The symptoms of anxiety are different for everyone, and can be physical (e.g. racing heart, tight chest, feeling tense), psychological (e.g. excessive fear, worry, obsessive thinking), or behavioural (avoiding situations that make you feel anxious) [43130]. If people experience high levels of anxiety over a long period of time, it may lead to depression.

Depression is a mental health condition that affects people’s mood [30122]. It occurs when a person feels very sad, loses interest in activities they used to enjoy and finds it hard to function [30122]. It is common for people to feel sad once in a while, but unlike sadness, when a person is clinically depressed they have symptoms every day, the experience is long-lasting (at least two weeks) and it interferes with many if not all aspects of their life [43132].

Common symptoms of depression include poor sleep, less energy, difficulty concentrating, a lack of appetite, negative thoughts and suicide ideation. Not everyone who experiences these symptoms has depression, however for those who do, it can present differently and may change over time [30122][43132].

The likelihood of developing anxiety and/or depression is influenced by factors such as family history of anxiety and/or depression, personality type (e.g. someone who worries a lot may be more likely to develop anxiety), physical health problems (e.g. chronic pain) and substance use [43134][43135].

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there are additional historical, political and social determinants that increase the risk of depression and anxiety [33416][43191]. These determinants include risk factors stemming from colonisation and contributing to intergenerational trauma, such as impacts of the Stolen Generations and removal of children, grief and loss, separation from culture, and discrimination [37669][33416].

Addressing anxiety and depression among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities requires culturally competent mental health support that draws on a holistic concept of health, including social and emotional wellbeing – to support clinical care [33416]. This means acknowledging the role of social and cultural protective factors such as social support, links to land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, self-determination, strong community governance and the passing on of cultural practices, in reducing incidences of anxiety and depression [37669][35190].


Key resources



Untitled by Donna Lei Rioli

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