The Embrace Multicultural Mental Health project aims to make mental health services accessible for people from diverse backgrounds in Australia. The key objectives of the project are to increase participation of consumers and carers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds in mental health services and to improve outcomes for CALD mental health consumers, carers, and their families. There is a drive to increase mental health awareness, knowledge, and capacity in CALD communities and also improve cultural responsiveness and diversity of the mental health workforce. Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District was one of two organisations consulted.
Future messaging from the Embrace campaign will encourage help seeking must appreciate and consider how the project will factor in the extensive situational causes of mental illness may seem insurmountable as well as the anguish caused by ambiguous wait times and uncertainty when interacting with Australia’s visa system.
On stigma reduction, the Embrace project should consider the potential for supportive social networks like family, friends and community in any future activities in overcoming barriers like stigma, shame, fear, lack of education, religious misbeliefs, lack of community response, issues around confidentiality, pride and embarrassment. The project should appreciate the large obstacles to overcome like knowing someone close to them has had a previous bad experience, the large cost associated with mental health treatment for many and multiple issues around interpreters services and consider how the Embrace project can address these issues.
On information accessibility, the Embrace project should consider the framing of mental health issues as they relate to concepts of physical health, spirit and spirituality and other familiar concepts. Going forward, the Embrace project should consider that the phrases ‘mental health’, ‘mental illness’ and wellbeing are used interchangeably by many with the meaning of ‘mental illness’.
Importantly, the Embrace project must consider that whilst leaders of cultural communities were seen as a source of information by some, for many cultural communities and leaders had a detrimental impact of information provision and mental health stigma.
This survey responses were indicative of the reach and accessibility of the survey for the broader CALD community and the inclination of those less knowledgeable on issues of mental health and experiencing significant effects of stigma to respond and the sample being from a cohort who is not currently the most vulnerable as they do speak to others about mental health. Future research should consider delivering surveys in plain English and in languages other than English to ensure a wider range of participants can be included in the sample.
Complete summary recommendations are in the following lists:
Understanding of Mental Illness, Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Continue to focus on stigma reduction and information accessibility
- Consider further strengthening links in messaging to concepts of physical health
- Consider a person’s spirit and spirituality in relation to their wellbeing and mental health
- Understand the importance of connection to society
- Consider that mental health treatment is not the solution for many who are experiencing situations of ambiguity and anguish for extended periods whilst navigating Australia’s visa system
- Understand that the extensive situational causes of mental illness may seem insurmountable
- Recognise limitations in talking about mental health/illness where a person, in their first language, may not have Australian psychology compatible terms and phrases to explain their experience
- Understand that mental illness, mental health and wellbeing are not separate concepts or ideas for many so future communications should reflect this
- Appreciate that family, friends and social networks can play a protective or detrimental role in impacting individual mental health depending on their level of support and understanding.
Communication About Mental Illness, Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Use practical and physical language to describe mental illness and symptoms
- Consider stigma, shame, fear, lack of education, religious misbeliefs, lack of community response, issues around confidentiality, pride and embarrassment in Embrace stigma reduction activities
- Understand that cultural communities can have a protective or detrimental impact on communicating about mental health and ensure stigma reduction or informational activities are not only extended to community leaders or figureheads
- Recognise the need for bilingual mental health support
- Understand the barriers to seeking help as taboo, privacy, lack of knowledge and worry about what mental illnesses are, not recognizing the need for support, unsure how to access services, lack of appropriate services and stigma in Embrace stigma reduction activities
- Be aware of the tendency for migrant communities to try and be strong, ‘keep face’ and not ask for help
- Recognise privacy and confidentiality as a barrier to seeking help tied to future job prospects and affecting immigration
- Consider the stressful migration journey of many people from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds and the difficulty in identifying when they should ask for help in Embrace informational activities
- Recognise the obstacle or bad experiences with mental health service providers for Embrace activities to overcome to urge people to seek help when needed
- Recognise cost as a major issue and consider a communications piece around mental health care plans appreciating that many temporary migrants do not have access to Medicare
- Consider the multiple issues with interpreters and consider how Embrace could influence outcomes
Information About Mental Illness, Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Recognise a willingness for all consultation and survey participants to improve the situation of mental illness, mental health and wellbeing in their communities and a want for tools to help achieve this
- Utilise GP or online as well as books, their workplace, EAP, friends, family and community organisations to distribute information
- Consider participants suggestions for receiving information such as welcome packs for new migrants, health practitioners from multicultural backgrounds and online and traditional media
- Consider a focus on families as part of the solution in Embrace activities and messaging
- Ensure information about mental illness, recovery, symptoms, prevention, medications, alternative treatments, how to access support (including free support) and how to support a friends, family or community member with their mental health is received by communities