Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.


Created by mob, for mob; headspace has launched their campaign ‘Take a Step’ aimed at supporting the mental health of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The campaign aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to recognise the signs that something isn’t right and to take steps to feel better.

On Monday, the national youth mental health foundation launched ‘Take a Step’ which will be broadcast on national television, radio and in select cinemas.

The headspace campaign also sees the release of a suite of resources, including a ‘Stronger You’ wheel — based on the work of Gamilaroi psychologist Dr Clinton Schultz.

The ‘Stronger You’ wheel from the ‘Take a Step’ campaign. Photo supplied by headspace.

Currently in Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 24 and over are three times more likely than young people to die by suicide.

Partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country, including groups of First Nations youth who have lived experience of mental ill-health, ‘Take a Step’ is a self-determined campaign.

“This is a campaign for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who understand that it’s important to yarn up and seek help when you’re not feeling too deadly,” said Torres Strait Islander man and headspace Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Practice and Engagement Coordinator William Oui.

“Take a Step understands the need to think about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing holistically, considering the ways our culture, identity, place and spirituality can make us feel strong.”

“There are also resources that empower family and friends to recognise when young people are having a hard time and what can be done to support them.”

Proud Kalkadoon woman from Mount Isa, Queensland, Tiarnee Schafer was involved in the development of ‘Take a Step’.

Passionate about “all things social and emotional wellbeing”, Schafer is currently studying an Honours is Psychology and a Masters in Suicidology.

“Living in a rural/remote community, I’ve seen the effect that mental health can have on our mob … Losing family and friends to suicide, you do feel helpless at times,” she said.

Schafer is passionate about decolonising the psychology space through incorporating “Indigenous ways on knowing, doing and being”.

During early consultations, Schafer said two priorities were established — helping young mob identify, understand and express their feelings, and addressing the shame and stigma around mental health. 

“Take a Step really moves to address both of those. It helps young people notice their mental health … helps them put their feelings [into] words and take action,” she said.

Schafer finds solidarity and support from her mother, who she describes as a “staunch, strong woman who has gone through a lot”.

“Sometimes I think I don’t want to talk to her because I don’t want to unload my problems to her. She has had it so much harder than I have,” she said.

“But once you have those deep and meaningful conversations, especially with loved ones like your Mum and Aunty, it gets easier to talk about what is happening.”

Schafer was one of many that contributed to ‘Take a Step’ being a self-determined project; a decision she said ensures that the campaign is “strength-based and not a deficit approach”.

“We always hear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the highest suicide rate, we know that and we don’t need to hear that. It’s important that this campaign was both culturally and clinically safe,” she said.

“It was important that headspace, as a mainstream organisation, recognised the importance of us leading it, it goes back to that ‘nothing about us without us.’”

Tiarnee Schafer on Kalkadoon Country. Photo supplied.

Chief exectuive at headspace Jason Trethowan noted the organisation’s pride in delivering such an important message.

“We are dedicated to supporting young people on their social and emotional wellbeing journey. We want to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to understand what social and emotional wellbeing means and when support might be needed,” he said.

‘Take a Step’ is being funded by the Department of Health and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

Find out more about the ‘Take a Step’ campaign here.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:


By Rachael Knowles