North Coast Primary Health Network is partnering with local organisation Desert Pea Media (DPM) to produce a social and emotional wellbeing program worth $800,000 to support local Aboriginal communities.

Young Aboriginal people on the North Coast experience disproportionate levels of mental health issues, including self-harm and suicide while cultural continuity and self-determination are protective factors for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' social and emotional wellbeing.

Since 2002, DPM has worked with Indigenous young people across Australia using contemporary storytelling techniques and audio-visual media to facilitate important social and cultural conversations. Working collaboratively with Elders, young people, community leaders and local service providers, DPM’s Break It Down is an Aboriginal youth mental health literacy program. The program is relevant and appropriate to the needs of individuals and communities.

Break it Down provides a safe space for young people to express themselves about difficult topics like mental health, and the use of alcohol and other drugs.

Break it Down North Coast will seek to improve young Aboriginal people's social and emotional wellbeing through a community development and engagement approach in eight communities across the region, chosen on high levels of need.

Throughout the work, the DPM team will work closely with mental and allied health professionals to produce media content that articulates an innovative conversation around mental health, and helps young people to ‘break down’ stigmas associated with these topics. Community roadshows and a region-wide evaluation will also be delivered as part of the project.

NCPHN’s Chief Executive, Julie Sturgess, said the funding is designed to build resilience and pride among young Aboriginal people.

“Break It Down will engage young people in a language that they are already fluent and engaged in. It’s an exciting opportunity we are pleased to support in eight North Coast communities,” she said.

Previous DPM programs have produced songs playlisted on Triple J, with past community music videos winning Community Music Clip of the Year at the National Indigenous Music Awards.

Toby Finlayson, DPM’s CEO, said, “We are really excited to be bringing the Break It Down program to North Coast communities. The work that is created in these projects becomes a long-term tool for communities and service providers, as a social wellbeing, cultural and educational resource.”