Australia is a diverse country, with people from many different cultures, backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities. Anyone can experience distress or mental health issues. It’s important that every Australian has the opportunity to live a full life, free of discrimination and with access to help when they need it.
- In the last census almost half of all Australians were either born overseas or had a parent who was born overseas.
- Immigrants are under-represented among people who use mental health services in Australia.
- Refugees and asylum seekers have low access to mental health services.
Stressful events around migration, seeking asylum, and discrimination can impact wellbeing and mental health for individuals, families, and communities. These can include:
- Separation from cultural identity and loss of close family ties
- Being exposed to trauma prior to migration
- Stress associated with migration
- Experiences of racism and discrimination
- Detention of asylum seekers
- Lack of culturally appropriate services
- Stigma around mental health within communities
- Language barriers
- Uncertainty of visa status
- Unfamiliarity with the Australian mental health system and processes.
When to get help
Professional support can help people cope with these stressful situations. Talking to a trusted person also helps many people feel less alone.
If you notice any of the following experiences, and they are impacting your daily life, telling someone you trust or a health professional can be the first step to seeking support:
- Changes to sleeping or appetite
- Feeling lonely, isolated, or not good enough
- Changes in behaviour – more alcohol or substance use
- Thinking about harming yourself or ending your life
- Hearing or sensing things that may not be real
- Not doing things you used to enjoy
- Not taking care of personal hygiene or your usual daily tasks
- Talking or socialising less than previously
- Having thoughts that are confused or very disorganised.
There are many services available across Australia which can help with your mental health. Some can connect you with other people going through similar experiences or support services in your community.
SANE Helpline – 1800 187 263
The SANE free counselling service supports people who are concerned about their own or someone else’s mental health. This is a free phone call where you can choose to remain anonymous.
If your first language is not English, call us with the free Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS). Call 131 450 and ask for your preferred language. When connected to an interpreter, ask to speak to the SANE Helpline on 1800 187 263.
Health Translations Directory
Free multilingual information and resources on health and mental health.
Embrace Multicultural Mental Health Multilingual information
Free multilingual information about mental health concerns in a variety of languages.
BeyondBlue translated mental health resources
Mental health information on stress and stress management. Information for families and new parents.
Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre
A place for multicultural Canberrans to meet and celebrate their cultures. Has community services that offer assistance finding support and help with English.
Multicultural Hub Canberra
Services include multicultural youth services, settlement services to support newly arrived migrants and humanitarian entrants in the ACT and South-East NSW, employment services, aged-care and women services.
Phone: (02) 6100 4611
Multicultural Council of the Northern Territory
Advocates and provides direct services for individuals, families and communities from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds in the Northern Territory. Provides a range of services from citizenship education, homework club, NDIS community connector program, emergency relief, to in-person ‘one stop shop’ for refugees and migrants in Darwin and surrounding areas.
Phone: (08) 8945 9122
Multicultural Community Services of Central Australia Incorporated (MCSCA)
The only organisation in Alice Springs that provides settlement assistance to migrants and refugees. MCSCA also provides provision of case work, referrals and support to migrants/refugees, information sessions on a range of topics, assistance with citizenship applications, and multicultural playgroups.
Phone: (08) 8952 8776
Melaleuca Refugee Centre
Humanitarian services for individuals and families from refugee and migrant backgrounds.
Phone: (08) 8985 3311
Migrant Resource Centre (Tas)
Supports people from migrant backgrounds to settle in Tasmania. Includes support for older people, specialised settlement services, youth work, health and wellbeing, community development, migration support, and employment assistance.
Multicultural Access Point
A directory of services for migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, international students, and short-stay migrants. Helps people find information on interpreting services, housing and accommodation, health, community, education, managing money, transport, and settlement support
Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania’s Phoenix Centre
Provides support services (such as counselling) to people and communities who have experienced torture and other traumatic events in their country of origin or while fleeing those countries. Open to Humanitarian Programme entrants permanently resettled in Australia and people on Temporary Substantive Visas (TSVs).
Adult Migrant Education Services (AMES) Australia
AMES provides a range of settlement services to new and recently arrived refugee and migrant communities. Services include on-arrival settlement support, English language and literacy training, vocational education and training and employment services.
Phone: (03) 9794 1900
Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY)
The CMY supports young people aged 12-25 from migrant and refugee backgrounds through a range of specialist support services, programs, resources and advocacy initiatives
Foundation House, the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture
Provides support to refugees who are survivors of trauma and other traumatic events. Services for individuals, communities, schools, and young people.
Multicultural Services Centre
Provides programs and services to meet the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse Australians. They can provide services to Australian temporary residents (international students and those on working visas) with access to emergency relief, housing, domestic violence services, and counselling support.
Their MAITRI services can also provide clients with access to mental health clinicians from the same cultural and linguistic background, group therapy, family counselling as support for children and adolescents from refugee and migrant backgrounds presenting with mental health challenges.
Phone: (08) 9328 2699
The Association for Services to Torture and Trauma Survivors
Free and voluntary support for people who have faced torture, trauma, or persecution before coming to Australia. Services for communities, individuals, families, and young people.
Help for family & friends
It’s common for family members to take on a caring role for someone going through mental health issues.
There are services that support family, friends, and carers and provide a way of connecting with others who may share your experience:
Racism and mental health
Experiences of racism cause distress and adversely affects mental health in immigrants and refugees.
If you have experienced racial discrimination, you can report it to the Australian Human Rights Commission. Call 1300 656 419.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). 2016 Census: Multicultural.
Ferdinand, A. S., Paradies, Y., & Gelaber, M. (2015). Mental health impacts of racial discrimination in Australian culturally and linguistically diverse communities: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 15.
Minas, H., Kakuma, R., Too, L. S., Vayani, H., Orapeleng, S., Prasad-Ildes, R., Turner, G., Procter, N., & Oehm, D. (2013). Mental Health Research and Evaluation in Multicultural Australia: Developing a Culture of Inclusion. Mental Health in Multicultural Australia.