• Tiahni Boschman has shared her experience with depression as part of the Yarns Heal suicide prevention campaign. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
First Nations people are publicly discussing mental health as part of a new suicide prevention campaign.
Ella Archibald-Binge

14 Jun 2019 - 5:09 PM  UPDATED 14 Jun 2019 - 5:09 PM

Tiahni Boschman was 14 when she first began to struggle with mental illness.

She felt alone and unhappy at boarding school in Brisbane.

Her mother lived 800km away in outback Queensland and her sense of isolation was compounded by an intergenerational loss of identity.

Her father is a member of Western Australia's Stolen Generations and was forcibly removed from his own parents as a boy.

Ms Boschman "disconnected completely" and stopped practising the traditional dancing, painting and singing she had loved. Eventually she was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

"Disconnecting from my culture and my family at such a young age was a massive impact on my mental health," she told NITV News.

Now 21, Ms Boschman said it was only when reconnected with her culture - particularly dancing - that she began to heal.

"I can’t explain the feeling I get when I dance," the Yamatji woman said.

"You’re dancing with spirit, you’re dancing with ancestors... you’re connecting back with your country and your ancestors are all hugging you – you can feel them, they’ve got their arms around you."

Ms Boschman is one of six First Nations people sharing their stories as part of a new suicide prevention campaign.

Yarns Heal aims to break the taboo around mental illness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

Launched in Brisbane this week, the project is part of the federal government's national suicide prevention trial.

It was led by the IndigiLez Women’s Leadership and Support Group and the gar’ban’djee’lum Network.

"If one person can connect to a support service and use culture to heal and come through the other side of whatever they’re going through, then I feel like this campaign would’ve done its job," Yarns Heal project officer Chantel Keegan said.

In what organisers describe as an Australian first, the campaign also involved collaboration between Indigenous groups and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, brotherboy and sistergirl community.

"For a long time our community has been a bit fragmented in terms of acceptance around our sexuality and gender, so this was a really amazing opportunity for us for the first time to work together," said Phillip Sariago of 2 Spirits, an Indigenous LBGTI+ support service.

Through a series of online videos, posters and social media projects, the campaign will encourage people with mental health issues to speak up and seek help.

For Ms Boschman, speaking up was a vital step to healing.

"I really hope that people can speak, yarn," she said.

"For me personally going through depression and anxiety, I didn’t talk about it, I never shared with anybody.

"And I found going through that and then sharing was where it really had a massive curve for me, because a problem shared is a problem halved."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or find an Aboriginal Medical Service here