Factors that sustain indigenous youth mentoring programs: a qualitative systematic review

James Sanchez, Jade Maiden, Elsa Barton, Lucie Walters, Donna Quinn, Nathan Jones, Aunty Kerrie Doyle, David Lim

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Background: Indigenous youth worldwide continue to experience disproportional rates of poorer mental health and well-being compared to non-Indigenous youth. Mentoring has been known to establish favorable outcomes in many areas of health but is still in its early phases of research within Indigenous contexts. This paper explores the barriers and facilitators of Indigenous youth mentoring programs to improve mental health outcomes and provides evidence for governments’ response to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Methods: A systematic search for published studies was conducted on PubMed, Embase, Scopus, CINAHL, and grey literature through Trove, OpenGrey, Indigenous HealthInfoNet, and Informit Indigenous Collection. All papers included in the search were peer-reviewed and published from 2007 to 2021. The Joanna Briggs Institute approaches to critical appraisal, data extraction, data synthesis, and confidence of findings were used.

Results: A total of eight papers describing six mentoring programs were included in this review; six papers were from Canada, and two originated from Australia. Studies included mentor perspectives (n = 4) (incorporating views of parents, carers, Aboriginal assistant teachers, Indigenous program facilitators, young adult health leaders, and community Elders), mentee perspectives (n = 1), and both mentor and mentee perspectives (n = 3). Programs were conducted nationally (n = 3) or within specific local Indigenous communities (n = 3) with varying mentor styles and program focus. Five synthesized findings were identified from the data extraction process, each consisting of four categories. These synthesized findings were: establishing cultural relevancy, facilitating environments, building relationships, facilitating community engagement, and leadership responsibilities, which were discussed in the context of extant mentoring theoretical frameworks. 

Conclusion: Mentoring is an appropriate strategy for improving general well-being. However, more research is needed to explore program sustainability and maintaining outcomes in the long term.

Original languageEnglish
Article number429
Number of pages15
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2023


  • Indigenous
  • Mental health
  • Mentoring
  • Resilience
  • Youth


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