IJERPH, Vol. 18, Pages 9757: From Digital Mental Health to Digital Social and Emotional Wellbeing: How Indigenous Community-Based Participatory Research Influenced the Australian Government`s Digital Mental Health Agenda (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
This paper describes the first six years of a government-initiated project to train Indigenous health professionals in digital mental health (d-MH). It illustrates how community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods were used to enable this “top-down” project to be transformed into a ‘ground-up` community-guided process; and how, in turn, the guidance from the local Indigenous community partners went on to influence the national government`s d-MH agenda. The CBPR partnership between five community partners and a university rural health department is described, with illustrations of how CBPR harnessed the community`s voice in making the project relevant to their wellbeing needs. The local Indigenous community`s involvement led to a number of unexpected outcomes, which impacted locally and nationally. At an early stage, the conceptual framework of the project was changed from d-MH to the culturally-relevant Indigenous framework of digital social and emotional wellbeing (d-SEWB). This led to a significant expansion of the range and type of digital resources; and to other notable outcomes such as successful advocacy for an Aboriginal-specific online therapy program and for a dedicated “one-stop-shop” d-SEWB website, Wellmob, which was funded by the Australian government in 2019–2021. Some of the implications of this project for future Indigenous CBPR projects are discussed.