Screening for depression in young Indigenous people: Building on a unique community initiative

Linton R. Harriss, Mary Kyle, Katrina Connolly, Edward Murgha, Merton Bulmer, Darren Miller, Paul Munn, Paul Neal, Kingsley Pearson, Melanie Walsh, Sandra Campbell, Maximus Berger, Robyn McDermott, Malcolm McDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service Aboriginal Corporation (GYHSAC) is an Indigenous community-controlled health organisation providing comprehensive primary care to the people of Yarrabah in far north Queensland, Australia. GYHSAC conducts an annual Young Person's Health Check (YPC) for people aged 15-25 years based on the Medical Benefits Schedule Item 715. However, the YPC is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the community, and in 2016, in response to concerns about psychological risk among Indigenous youth, GYHSAC teamed up with James Cook University to trial an adapted PHQ-9 depression screening tool (aPHQ-9) as part of the YPC. This study describes the 2016 YPC event, reports the prevalence of depressive symptoms, examines local issues related to the use of the screening tool and proposes recommendations for future health screening. Experienced health professionals conducted the aPHQ-9 assessment in a private area of the clinic. One-in-five young people were found to have moderate-severe symptoms or self-harm ideation in the previous 2 weeks they were referred to the mental health service. The aPHQ-9 screening process was found to be straightforward and well accepted by staff and youth. Importantly, it provided valuable 'space' to facilitate communication on sensitive issues and was a conduit for speedy referral and follow up by trained staff. Based on our experience, we recommend dedicated depression screening in future routine community health checks for young people and adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-349
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Journal of Primary Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


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