The Impact of Racism on Mental Health of Indigenous Australia Population   

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Introduction

The Australian Parliament in the year 1993 passed into law the Native Title Act (Cth.) where by one week of prayer was then held. That week has since been made the National Reconciliation week.  This was made so because of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait people who have a long history of injustice in Australia. The injustice meted against them was within the realms of violence, ostentatious racism, land dispossession and violence. It was from this point of view that national reconciliation was organized and constitutionally recognized.  More so, a Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation (CAR) was constituted and the reconciliation is now healing the injustices that were done through recognition of rights. It has also given impetus to a national conversation on racism, prejudice and discrimination. It is through such measures that the identity of people becomes a source of happiness rather than a source of discrimination and prejudice. Nonetheless, a body of literature still exists that demonstrates there still exists a racial discrepancy on how people are treated and the state of reconciliation. In light of this, this paper analyses four Australian based media articles relating to mental health as a correlate of racism. The essay will summarize the main issues presented in each particular article, discuss some of the links to the unit modules, current debates, and readings as well as offer individual reflection on the revealed issues.

Media item 1

ANDERSON, P. (2013). Racism a driver of ill health. The Australian.

Summary and key points

The article states that the newly launched plan for health that targets Torres Strait Islanders and aboriginals has recognized an association between racism and ill-health. The outcome is a shock to many citizens who have a perception that any form of racial discrimination that targets indigenous Australians is isolated and usually harmless. The author demonstrates that the same sentiments were raised following the abuse of a footballer, Adam Goodes who plays for Sydney Swans club. In addition, he states that health plan got the issue of human right with a key research that was conducted in the year 2010 to 2011 in Victoria revealing that Aboriginals Victorian experienced high levels of racism. More than 70% of the respondents who were interviewed had experienced more than eight incidents of racism which Paradies (2013) posits it is a situation that might have affected them psychologically.

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More studies in Australia have revealed high levels of racist attitude, language and behavior. This are the reality and challenges faced by the indigenous Australian population. A body of literature exists that demonstrate the association of racism and mental illness to those affected by it negatively. Anderson (2013) suggests that effect of racial discrimination is harmful towards mental stability of the indigenous Australians. On an individual basis, the author links racism to depression, substance abuse, psychological stress and poor quality of life all of which contribute to the poor mental and physical health that is experienced by the indigenous population (Durey, 2011). Additionally, the victims may be reluctant to seek the much-required welfare, health and housing services from individuals whom they perceive have a negative attitude towards them.  Lastly, Anderson reveals that there is a body of evidence that shows that the system of health does not offer the same level of care to other Australians as it does with the indigenous people. The systemic racism experienced in Australia is actually a reflection of assumptions raised about the behavior or health of individuals belonging to a certain ethnic group (Anderson, 2013).

Link to Approaches and Current Debate

Anderson (2013) reveals that Racism remains a negative factor in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.  Consequently, the results of racism can be linked either directly and indirectly to the mental health status of indigenous Australians. Anderson outlines the challenges that Aboriginals are facing in recovering from stress and harassment that are related to racism. One of the challenges raised is a failure by psychologist and other mental health practitioners to acknowledge that indeed racism impacts negatively on the development of psychiatric and mental illness among the people affected.

Larson et al (2010), reveals that through utilizing partnership model and strength approach to close the gap between perpetrators and the victims, a lot can be done such as engaging with and empower them towards developing solutions that are culturally accepted. The number of researchers from indigenous Australian background is less but through support; it will be easier for them to find effective ways of dealing with the issues raised. The author believes that the health plan targeting aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders will help connect them the rest of the society given that tackling and recognition of racism is all about creating happier, healthier and better nations that will allow all Australians to thrive (Lucia, 2015).

Reflection

The article offers essential data on the mental health and well-being of indigenous Australian population. As revealed in the article, it is important that the insight and ideas of researchers are turned into solutions that are needed to close the inequality gap that are highlighted and respected. The impact of racism as explained in the article is quite complex and it is clear that more research has to be done so as better solutions can be achieved and implemented. However, one of the vital points that should be picked from this article is that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders should be empowered and allowed to take lead in the decision-making process.

Media item 2

Crikey, D. (2013). Being Aboriginal’ is a marker for having experienced racism, discrimination and colonization.

Summary and key points

The author reveals that being an aboriginal in Australia is a marker for having experienced colonization, discrimination, and racism. The article reveals that there exists a link between health and racism based on research conducted by Dr. Angela Durey. According to Dr. Angela, aboriginals who experienced racist attack were fifty percent more likely to report their mental health status as being either poor or fair as compared to those who never experienced it. Additionally, forty percent of individuals who thought their employers were racist at the place of work were more likely to report the state of health as either poor or fair. A review carried out in Australia revealed an inverse correlation between physical health, mental health and racial discrimination (Awofeso, 2011). Experiences of the indigenous Australians with physical or verbal abuse as well as unfair treatment while seeking medical services made it a challenge for the victims to share their experiences with security personnel. It is quite clear in a number of researches done in Australia that racism is the major contributor of mental health issues among the indigenous ethnic groups and therefore working together to eradicate the vice should be one of the goals of public health. The government through the newly launched health plan should monitor any form of racism in social media and act to punish the perpetrators (Ferdinand, Paradies & Kelaher, 2013). According to the author, social platform media should be quick to remove any racist comment from their wall.

In Dr. Angela’s research, most of the participants who were aboriginals could not accept that they were mentally affected but were ready to seek mental health services. The researchers concluded that mental issue is a challenge among the indigenous Australian population as supported by other previous research and a lot of awareness should be done to help deal with the issue. Consequently, the author is worried that mental health practitioners may not be competent enough to manage the problem in their communities given that some members of indigenous Australian patients have complained of microaggression and racist behaviors from their therapists.

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Links to approaches and current debate

Racism is an issue that is discussed in almost all social networking forums in Australia. It is, therefore, an important issue that needs to be addressed by all mean. Use of social media is one of the approaches that change agents are using to close the gap between racism and mental health among aboriginals. As explained by Kelaher, Ferdinand & Paradies (2014), mental health practitioners should not discriminate their patient based on their race and should give them a chance to express their feelings. Racism has impacted on the freedom of aboriginals in Australia; their lives have been affected by racist remarks in their place of work at schools and even medical facilities. It is time for the government to work closely with aboriginal people through empowering them and ensure effective representation.  Despite these discouraging practices, the last few years have seen an important shift in government policies with the aim of reducing cases of racism through launching a health plan that targets aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. The health plan recognizes the relationship between racism and ill-health and will work closely with people from these ethnic groups to ensure their rights are reserved, more so when seeking health care services (Priest et al. 2011).

Reflection

This website reflects serious consequences of racism on the mental state of aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. From the tone of the author, there is a feeling of helplessness and desperation from the indigenous Australian population. There exist a palpable disconnect as revealed by the article and I feel that racism is a big issue that has to be dealt with through involvement of those affected. Training of mental health providers with the aboriginal background will also make it possible to reduce the suffering of those involved. Activists should rise up and defend the rights of the oppressed.  However, I support the use of social networking sites such as this blog in creating awareness among those at risk and thereby helping them seek medical help.

Media Item 3

Soutphommasane, D. (2017). Multiculturalism, mental health and the psychology of racism.

Summary and key points

The blog reveals the information based on a speech that was delivered at a mental health forum in Western Australia. The speech is about the issue of multiculturalism and relationship between racism and mental health. The author argues that multiculturalism is an idea that celebrates and recognizes the diversity of various ethnic groups living together in Australia. It recognizes that any individuals should be comfortable in their heritage, own skin and cultural identity. When people from diverse backgrounds come together some of them may bring histories of trauma, violence, turmoil, and conflicts. Racism poses harm to victims. It hurts those targeted and the trauma goes beyond mere feelings. The stress related to racism remarks can cause physiological symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, rapid pulse rate as well as fear in the gut (Sharma, 2012). Repeated exposure to racist attacks can result in post-traumatic disorders, development of hypertension, nightmares, suicide and other stress-related disorders.

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In order to deal with the issue of racism, the author argues that it is important to revisit the root cause of it. He asserts that sometimes it can be as a result of fear or hate but it is also important to relate it to arrogance, malicious intent or ignorance. A pathological disorder may be one of the major causes of racism. However, racist’s beliefs and attitudes for examples racial prejudice can happen even when people have normal psychological and cognitive processes. The author notes that most form of racism manifests within normal domains. He reveals that the only way of solving the issue of racism and reduce the number of cases of mental health reported by the victims is by understanding the main cause of racism and working closely to ensure that people engage in behaviors that do not harm others (Soutphommasane, 2017).

Links to approaches and current debates

According to Soutphommasane (2017), it is estimated that almost twenty percent of the Australian population have experienced various forms of racism in the past year and most of those who are affected are aboriginals and people of African origins. The places where most forms of discrimination occur entail shopping centers, neighborhood and places of work. In order to deal with the issue of racism, those affected should report the perpetrators to the relevant authorities. The blog explains that victims should not be resilient (De Maynard, 2011). It is the multicultural society that should try being resilient, more resilient against attempts aimed at silencing those that speak on behalf of the victims and against attempts to sweep the issue under the carpet (Ben et al. 2014).

Reflection

Despite the article revealing confronting information related to the effect of racial discrimination on the physical and mental status of aboriginals and Torres Traits Islanders, it is encouraging to find out that all members of the multicultural societies have a part to play in dealing with the vice. I believe that the victims should raise their voice and immediate actions should be taken against perpetrators.  The article offers a sense of positive motivation and progression on dealing with effects of racism within Australian multicultural society.

Media item 4

GORRIE, N. (2016). I’m Depressed, But Is That Actually a Problem. VICE, [online] (4), pp.3-5.

Summary and key points

In the article, Nayuki, a victim of racism reveals her experiences. She states that depression and anxiety following numerous racist attack made her differ two different degrees and quit three jobs. She wonders why most of her friends are always happy yet statistics state that one in five Australians experiences depression and anxiety at some point in life. The author reveals that the rate of psychological stress is over thirty-one percent among the aboriginals and people of Torres Strait Islander origin. She reveals that apart from genetics, racism can also be caused by the environment. Like so many other communities that are a victim of racism, aboriginals don’t speak out about mental issues related to racism. According to the Ziersch et al (2011), most Australians of the aboriginal ethnic group do not voice their dissatisfaction about racism because they are too busy working, putting food on the table and most probably mourning. Despite all these challenges some of them have worked hard to get a job and have a shelter, yet challenges still exist. The author concludes that her depression may be a price paid for assimilation and colonization (GORRIE, 2016).

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Links to approaches and current debates

According to Swan & Raphael (2016), negative beliefs and attitudes towards indigenous Australian population are not without results. Initially, beliefs about how inferior the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders are has been translated into policies that restricted their access to employment, educational and residential opportunities. Most of those affected like Nayuka have ended up with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Racial discrimination has led to some of the victims quit their jobs and studies (Berry, 2013). However, all is not lost; the recently launched health plan for aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders has recognized the relationship between racism and ill-health and put mechanisms in place to reduce the number of victims affected by the same (Zubrick et al. 2012).

Reflection

The article offers diverse information on the serious situations faced by victims of racism in Australia. The author, who is a victim, blames racism on assimilation and colonization and thinks the society has done less to deal with the issue. She also reveals that most of those affected are not raising their voice and reporting the perpetrators to the relevant authorities. I feel it is important for activists such as renowned authors, politicians and opinion movers to move with speed and speak for the victims.

Conclusion

The four Australian Media which includes magazines, newspapers, websites, and blogs have shown the extent of racism experienced in Australia. Most victims of racist attacks have ended up developing a mental illness which has impacted negatively on their ability to work and live in the Australian multicultural society. However, all is not lost; the launching of the health plan for aboriginals and Torres trait islanders is a stepping stone towards reducing cases of racism especially when seeking health services.

Overall, one issue has remained consistent, and that is the need for aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders to be at the center of the change process. Only through enabling and empowering this ethnic group to guide the journey of change will the reduction of mental illness related to racial discrimination reduce.

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  1. Anderson, P. (2013). Racism a driver of ill health. The Australian.
  2. Awofeso, N. (2011). Racism: a major impediment to optimal Indigenous health and health care in Australia. Australian indigenous health bulletin, 11(3), 1-8.
  3. Ben, J., Paradies, Y., Priest, N., Parker, E., Roberts-Thomson, K., Lawrence, H., Broughton, J. and Jamieson, L. (2014). Self-reported racism and experience of toothache among pregnant Aboriginal Australians: the role of perceived stress, sense of control, and social support. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 74(4), pp.301-309.
  4. Berry, H. (2013). Social capital and mental health among Aboriginal Australians, New Australians and Other Australians living in a coastal region. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 8(2), pp.142-154.
  5. Crikey, D. (2013). Being Aboriginal’ is a marker for having experienced racism, discrimination and colonization. [online] Asserting Australia’s First Nations Sovereignty into Governance.
  6. De Maynard, V. (2011). The impact of ‘racism’ on the dissociative experiences scale. International Journal of Culture and Mental Health, 3(2), pp.77-95.
  7. Durey, A. (2011). Reducing racism in Aboriginal health care in Australia: where does cultural education fit?. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 34(s1).
  8. Ferdinand, A., Paradies, Y., & Kelaher, M. (2013). Mental health impacts of racial discrimination in Victorian Aboriginal communities. Lowitja Institute.
  9. Gorrie, N. (2016). I’m Depressed, But Is That Actually a Problem?. VICE, [online] (4), pp.3-5.
  10. Kelaher, M. A., Ferdinand, A. S., & Paradies, Y. (2014). Experiencing racism in health care: the mental health impacts for Victorian Aboriginal communities. The Medical journal of Australia, 201(1), 44-47.
  11. Larson, A., Gillies, M., Howard, P. and Coffin, J. (2007). It’s enough to make you sick: the impact of racism on the health of Aboriginal Australians. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 31(4), pp.322-329.
  12. Lucia (2015). Fighting racism. Mental Health Practice, 9(4), pp.10-11.
  13. Paradies, Y. (2013). A systematic review of empirical research on self-reported racism and health. International journal of epidemiology, 35(4), 888-901.
  14. Paradies, Y., Harris, R., & Anderson, I. (2012). The impact of racism on Indigenous health in Australia and Aotearoa: Towards a research agenda. Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health.
  15. Priest, N. C., Paradies, Y. C., Gunthorpe, W., Cairney, S. J., & Sayers, S. M. (2011). Racism as a determinant of social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal Australian youth. The Medical journal of Australia, 194(10), 546-550.
  16. Sharma, S. (2012). Psychological distress among Australians and immigrants: Findings from the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Advances in Mental Health, 10(2), pp.106-116.
  17. Soutphommasane, D. (2017). Multiculturalism, mental health and the psychology of racism. [Blog] Australian Human Rights Commission.
  18. Swan, P., & Raphael, B. (2016). Ways forward: national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health policy.
  19. Ziersch, A. M., Gallaher, G., Baum, F., & Bentley, M. (2011). Responding to racism: Insights on how racism can damage health from an urban study of Australian Aboriginal people. Social Science & Medicine, 73(7), 1045-1053.
  20. Zubrick, S. R., Dudgeon, P., Gee, G., Glaskin, B., Kelly, K., Paradies, Y., … & Walker, R. (2012). Social determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing.
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