Big Worry: Implications of Anxiety in Indigenous Youth

Adermann, Jenny & Campbell, Marilyn (2007) Big Worry: Implications of Anxiety in Indigenous Youth. The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education (Supplement), 36S, pp. 74-80.



Excessive anxiety and worry can prevent young people from participating fully in school and life opportunities. Anxiety can involve fear of being apart from significant people or being left alone; avoidance of certain situations or activities for fear of embarrassment; worrying about normal life issues; repetitive thoughts and behaviours used as protection against something bad happening; or panic attacks and fears of recurring attacks and their effects.

It has been shown that unusual behaviours such as obsessional activities, the need for reassurance, low self esteem, poor concentration, fatigue, headaches, stomach aches and other reactions from excessive anxiety can hinder a child's academic success at school and affect their social relationships. Furthermore, anxiety is linked to depression that, in some cases, leads to suicide. This is significant for Indigenous youth as suicide rates in this group are significantly higher than the Australian national average.

Anxiety is an increasing problem for many young people, however, little is known about the incidence of excessive anxiety in Indigenous youth. It is, therefore, important to determine if excessive anxiety and worry is a significant problem for this group so that it might be addressed in a culturally appropriate way.

However, there is a great deal of contention around research and assessment of Indigenous groups due to a range of complex cultural and social issues. Not only are there difficulties in the ethical and practical aspects of conducting research with Indigenous youth, there are also difficulties in assessing mental health and anxiety, in particular, with this group. Nevertheless, it is important to gain a sense of Indigenous understanding about what is constructed as mental health, 'wellness' and excessive anxiety and how we come to a shared understanding of these concepts so that meaningful research into areas such as anxiety can be conducted. The implications of high levels of anxiety cannot be ignored and it is no longer acceptable to simply say that it is too hard to measure anxiety in Indigenous youth when the adverse consequences are known.

This paper examines what is currently known about Indigenous concepts of 'wellness', then looks at anxiety-provoking stressors for Indigenous youth and cultural strengths that may be protective. It then discusses research and assessment issues specific to Indigenous communities and general anxiety measurement issues. A study to investigate the incidence of anxiety in Indigenous youth across urban, rural and remote settings, is proposed.

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ID Code: 9294
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: childhood anxiety, indigenous, anxiety disorders
ISSN: 1326-0111
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (111701)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > SPECIALIST STUDIES IN EDUCATION (130300) > Learning Sciences (130309)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Mental Health (111714)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2007 Jenny Adermann and Marilyn Campbell
Deposited On: 02 Oct 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 19 Oct 2015 05:04

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