Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership

Collaboration • Knowledge • Leadership

13YARN: culturally safe crisis support

Jun, 2022

People in crisis are already under great pressure. Not only are their emotions and thoughts in turmoil, they’re likely to be suffering physical symptoms as well. Reaching out via a crisis line may be the only action they have energy to do.

Imagine adding to the burden with a need to explain your culture, your community and your very basis of existence.

This is the issue Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia sought to address when they developed 13YARN. With backing from the Australian Government, the 13YARN team reached out to all sections of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to develop a crisis line for men that was culturally safe.

13YARN promotional poster with text reading 'Call us for a yarn' “We codesigned the line with the community,” says Aunty Marj Anderson, National Program Manager for 13YARN, “and we made sure we had representatives from regional communities, LGBT, elders, youth; we made sure we had representation to truly codesign with the community.”

The crisis line links callers with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander supporter who has received Lifeline training. The line is run by members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and monitored and led by an Advisory Committee from the community. The underpinning value of the service is the understanding of the cultural and historical factors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ understanding and experience of mental wellbeing and suicide.

“The difference between 13YARN and Lifeline is you don’t need to tell your yarn,” says Aunty Marj. “Your family responsibilities, your connectedness to land, to culture; you don’t have to explain all that before you get help. There’s no judgement and no shame in ringing 13YARN.”

Reaching out across all Nations

There are many differences between Nations across Australia, and these were taken into account in the design of the crisis line.

Aunty Marj says, “We asked, ‘Tell us what you want it to look like, tell us what you want it to sound like.’ We’ve taken on all the advice we were given, and the line should be broad enough for any Nation to ring across Australia.”

The difference in languages between Nations can make it difficult for some callers, she notes, but yarning in English means confidentiality can be further secured, with the listener unaware of the caller’s language group.

“We train the crisis supporters to sit in silence a lot so that when someone’s translating in their mind what they want to say they’ve got the space to use the best language they can.”

Equipping callers with the knowledge to help themselves

The focus on crisis support means 13YARN workers aren’t able to see the outcome of their support, but the service aims to empower callers to get further help.

“When men ring up, we try to de-escalate to a point when the men will seek help themselves,” says Aunty Marj. “We’ve had great feedback from the community. We hear it’s helped them get through the night, it’s helped them get through, it’s a great service.

“If it wasn’t good we’d soon hear about it.”

It’s taken a little time for people in the community to start using the service, she says, but personal visits around the country are helping foster feelings of safety and trust. “We noticed when we go out into community our calls do go up.

“The team have been out and about at conferences telling other health professionals telling colleagues to give out information,” she says. Recently, the 13YARN team was able to speak at a conference in Alice Springs, which has resulted in uptake from that part of the community: “Since they talked to us they know to trust it.”

No judgement, no shame

Aunty Marj is quick to note that the line is not just for crisis. The one-on-one yarn model means calls are confidential, without judgement, and without shame.

“No problem too small for us – give us a call before you get into crisis. No problem’s too hard for us either. Call; an Aboriginal person will answer you.

“Don’t be ashamed about ringing 13YARN. It’s okay. Nobody else needs to know, and you’ve got the help you need right there.”

13YARN is 13 92 76.

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