Development of mental health first aid guidelines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing problems with substance use: a Delphi study Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Problems with substance use are common in some Aboriginal communities. Although problems with substance use are associated with significant mortality and morbidity, many people who experience them do not seek help. Training in mental health first aid has been shown to be effective in increasing knowledge of symptoms and behaviours associated with seeking help. The current study aimed to develop culturally appropriate guidelines for providing mental health first aid to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is experiencing problem drinking or problem drug use (e.g. abuse or dependence). METHODS: Twenty-eight Aboriginal health experts participated in two independent Delphi studies (n = 22 problem drinking study, n = 21 problem drug use; 15 participated in both). Panellists were presented with statements about possible first aid actions via online questionnaires and were encouraged to suggest additional actions not covered by the content. Statements were accepted for inclusion in the guidelines if they were endorsed by ≥ 90% of panellists as either 'Essential' or 'Important'. At the end of the two Delphi studies, participants were asked to give feedback on the value of the project and their participation experience. RESULTS: From a total of 735 statements presented over two studies, 429 were endorsed (223 problem drinking, 206 problem drug use). Statements were grouped into sections based on common themes (n = 7 problem drinking, n = 8 problem drug use), then written into guideline documents. Participants evaluated the Delphi method employed, and the guidelines developed, as useful and appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. CONCLUSIONS: Aboriginal health experts were able to reach consensus about culturally appropriate first aid for problems with substance use. Many first aid actions endorsed in the current studies were not endorsed in previous international Delphi studies, conducted on problem drinking and problem drug use in non-Indigenous people, highlighting the need for culturally specific first aid strategies to be employed when assisting Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.


  • Hart, Laura M
  • Bourchier, Sarah J
  • Jorm, Anthony F
  • Kanowski, Leonard G
  • Kingston, Anna H
  • Stanley, Donna
  • Lubman, Dan I

publication date

  • December 2010