headspace Edinburgh Reaches Out to Young People from Migrant & Refugee Backgrounds

Modeste HatungimanaOur Diverse Population

Australia is fortunate to have a diverse population representing many different cultures. Net overseas migration has increased significantly in the last decade and South Australia currently settles comparatively high proportions of both skilled and humanitarian visa holders. Statistics from the 2011 census show that around 350,000 South Australians were born overseas and about 220,000 speak a language other than English at home, making up nearly 13 percent of the population. When children of migrants are added, this figure rises to nearly 25 percent. Between January 2013 and June 2014, a total of 2,174 Humanitarian (refugee) entrants arrived in South Australia. The top three countries of birth were Afghanistan, Bhutan and Iran. 

Mental Health & CALD Young People

There are many issues that have the potential to impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds including; post-traumatic stress disorder, having little or no experience of school, or very disrupted schooling, loss of family members, uncertainty about the safety of family members back home, resettlement and acculturation difficulties and racism and prejudice. 

Unfortunately, current research shows that CALD communities have lower rates of health service utilisation, especially for mental health. headspace National reports that culturally and linguistically diverse clients make up only 9% of their total number of clients, indicating a proportionately lower rate of involvement in headspace services, despite the large Australian migrant and refugee population. There are many reasons for under-utilisation including language and cultural barriers, lack of understanding of appropriate healthcare pathways, normalisation of distress, lack of knowledge of services, reluctance to seek treatment due to stigma and shame, lack of ethnically matched mental health staff and having a preference for traditional treatment. Additionally, health provider factors such as under-diagnosis, misdiagnosis, variations in professional nosologies and difficulties accessing appropriate specialist care and service have also been found to have an impact on treatment and health-service use. 

GPs & CALD Patients

One way to improve CALD patients’ access to mental health services is through bettering the care delivered by their local GP. CALD patients visit their GPs at least once a year and express a preference to see their GPs more than mental health specialists, thus making the GP and important first point of contact with the healthcare system. GPs face a range of barriers to delivering effective mental health care for CALD patients including difficulties in 
recognising initial psychiatric symptoms, challenges associated with communicating a mental illness diagnosis and problems with using interpreter services. 

However, there are many facilitators which can aid GPs in delivering effective mental healthcare and in turn improve CALD health service access rates. These include cultural concordance between the GP and patient, seeking further education on cultural training, adopting a family-inclusive practice, recommending and encouraging the use of primary mental health services e.g. headspace and implementing practice-based initiatives such as group therapy or refugee and migrant-specific health promotion material.

headspace Edinburgh North’s CALD Youth Worker

Our headspace Edinburgh North Centre has recently employed a youth worker, Modeste Hatungimana, who specialises in supporting young people and their families from migrant and refugee backgrounds. The addition of a bi-cultural Youth Work in the headspace team has improved the accessibility of the headspace service for CALD young people as the centre is attuned to the sensitive and specific needs of refugee and migrant young people, including the adoption of a family inclusive practice.

Modeste’s role is made up of clinical time as a Youth Worker and engagement days working with diverse local young people and community members, linking with local schools and language centres. As part of Modeste’s role, headspace Edinburgh North have established a new CALD Reference Group which acts as an improved mechanism for consulting with refugee and migrant young people; hearing their voices in service planning, tailoring services to their needs and receiving feedback on what works for them.

For further information about headspace Edinburgh North’s CALD services for young people, contact the centre on (08) 8209 0700 or email enquiry@sonder.net.au