Key messages

  • There are significant vulnerable cultural communities in Victoria who have difficulty seeking assistance with mental illness.
  • It is important to engage with the Cultural diversity plan for Victoria specialist mental health services to minimise these barriers.

People from vulnerable and culturally diverse communities experience barriers to accessing public mental health services.

Barriers to accessing Victorian mental health services

Some of the barriers that may prevent people from vulnerable communities from accessing Victorian public mental health services include:

  • stigma and shame surrounding mental illness
  • reluctance to seek help outside the family
  • greater levels of family support and willingness to tolerate higher levels of dysfunction without seeking help
  • different understandings of the meaning of mental illness symptoms and appropriate responses
  • lack of knowledge about the role of Australian mental health services and where and how to seek help
  • language and literacy difficulties.

Actions to increase accessibility and responsiveness

The Cultural diversity plan for Victoria’s specialist mental health services: 2006–2010 outlines the following actions to increase the accessibility and responsiveness of mental health services.

Deliver culturally competent practice

  • Promote cultural competence as a core skill.
  • Incorporate cultural diversity perspectives in training and development activities.
  • Give staff information about the ethnic communities they serve and resources to assist them.
  • Use family-centred practice.

Incorporate cultural diversity into service and workforce actions

  • Identify cultural groups within your catchment area and collect information about their use of mental health services.
  • Use this information to develop specific strategies to increase responsiveness to under-represented or high-risk groups.
  • Reach out to diverse and vulnerable communities.
  • Strengthen links with the primary care sector.
  • Promote a culturally diverse workforce.

Provide access to high-quality language services

  • Provide interpreting and translating services.
  • Provide training for staff in working with an interpreter.
  • Develop strategies to provide information to consumers in ways they can understand.