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Mental health support for multicultural people

Factsheet

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.  

group of women wearing headscarves and smiling

The facts

  • 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. 

Common challenges

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.

Getting support 

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.

National

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.   

ACT

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
Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Northern Territory

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

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

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

Email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   

Melaleuca Refugee Centre

Humanitarian services for individuals and families from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

Phone: (08) 8985 3311

NSW

Multicultural Health Services directory   

Directory of multicultural health services in NSW.  

WayAhead Directory 

A directory of not-for-profit organisations, government agencies and community services in NSW.   

Settlement Services International (SSI)   

Provides services and support to refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. It includes housing, multicultural foster care, disability services, employment and youth support services. There is help with essential information for adjusting to a new lifestyle as well as assistance with learning English.  

One Door Mental Health - Bilingual Mental Health Support Service

Bilingual mental health workers assist people with mental health issues and their carer to get help, navigate referrals, and receive treatment. Service has a range of workers who speak Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin and Farsi/Dari. This service is only available to service users from Western Sydney.   

NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) 

Support for refugees and people from refugee-like backgrounds to recover from their experiences of torture and/or trauma and build a new life in Australia. 

Queensland

Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast

Free state-wide telephone support program connecting people with a volunteer who speaks their language. Callers can have a social chat with the volunteers to feel more connected to their community and culture.

Phone:  1800 95 40 40  

Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT)

Culturally sensitive services for people who have been through torture or refugee related trauma.

South Australia

Personal Education and Community Empowerment (PEACE) service
Relationship support for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, regardless of their visa status. Services support people and communities with sexual health, impacts of gambling, and family violence.

Services can refer clients to PEACE services by completing this form or calling (08) 8245 8100     

Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service (STTARS)

Supports people who have survived torture and trauma with counselling, case management, group work, and mental health support.

Tasmania

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). 

Victoria

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.

Western Australia

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. 

References 

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.

Mental health support for multicultural people: Factsheet & Guide
https://www.sane.org/information-stories/facts-and-guides/mental-health-support-for-multicultural-people

This Factsheet & Guide may be freely downloaded, copied and distributed on condition no change is made to the contents. SANE Australia is not responsible for any actions taken as a result of information or opinions contained in the Factsheet.
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