A report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown that people born overseas who also don’t speak English at home used mental health services at a significantly lower rate than other people. How can mental health services bridge this gap?
Among those born in Australia who speak English at home, 10.9% of people aged 15 to 54 access mental health services in 2011, compared to only 6% of people born overseas who do not speak English at Home.
The statistics seem to indicate that the key factor is whether English is spoken at home, because migrants who do speak English at home have a rate of 9.3%. (Koziol, 2016) Other factors which might cause the lower usage rate include cultural differences and lack of knowledge of or engagement in the broader community.
According to The Herald, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has not released figures like this before, so gauging the exact size of the problem has not been possible. However, the existence of the problem has been known for some time. In the view of Wendy Cross and Charanjit Singh, even when migrants DO manage to access mental health services, that is not the end of the problem.
In 2011, Cross and Singh first published ‘Dual Vulnerabilities: Mental Illness in a culturally and linguistically diverse society.’ (Cross & Singh, 2012) This paper recognised that people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds have ideas bout mental health issues that are different to ‘western’ approaches.
They claimed that mental health services ‘do not adequately meet the specific needs of CALD communities’ which they considered to be ‘a violation of sound health care access and rights.’ They therefore claimed disadvantage on two fronts: ‘marginalisation and stigmatisation associated with mental illness’ and the ‘access and utilization of services.’