Most cultures have different ways of explaining or understanding mental health and the experience of mental health challenges.
While there’s no right or wrong way to think about mental health, you’ll likely find that the most common approach in Australia is a ‘western’ way of understanding. This means the concept likely came from western countries, for example the United Kingdom or the United States.
This can feel challenging if you’re a young person from a multicultural background and you’re looking for mental health support.
- feel like you can’t discuss mental health and wellbeing as it’s not openly talked about in your culture or family
- have worries about how to find and use mental health services
- feel nervous about talking to someone
- have concerns you won’t feel understood because your culture has a different approach to mental health and wellbeing
- feel worried about accessing support because your parents or family might find out.
You’re not alone. Many young people from multicultural backgrounds have these feelings and experiences. The good thing is, support is available for your mental health and wellbeing. We’ve written this resource to help you and your family access the help you need.
If things are tough, letting others know about your mental health and what’s going on for you can really help. Talking about how you’re feeling can make you feel more connected and supported. You might just want to tell someone you’re having a hard time – you could begin by talking about what you feel comfortable sharing with someone you trust.
You could speak to:
a friend, family, community member, or someone else you trust. For example, a leader, an Elder, your Sheikh or Imam, your youth pastor, or one of your parent's friends.
a teacher, youth worker or, community health worker or employment worker.
your doctor (GP). If you don’t have a GP or want to know what to expect, check out What is a GP (and what can I expect)?
a mental health worker (e.g., a counsellor, psychologist, or social worker), you could try a recommendation from someone in your community.
Talking to a professional
Not sure how to start the conversation about your mental health? Here are some tips to help get you started when you’re talking with a mental health worker or support person.
Tell them what’s important to you
This can include:
- who you are, and the parts of you that make up your identity. You can also share if you’re influenced by more than one community (e.g., multi-faith and LGBTIQA+)
- how you, your family and your community understand mental health. This article on your cultural identity and mental health and wellbeing might help you and your mental health worker.
- whether you’re open to them asking questions about your culture
- who your support people are and what role your community plays in your life
- if you would like someone you trust to attend sessions with you
When seeing a mental health worker, it’s your space to share what’s going on for you, so you should feel as comfortable and as safe as possible. To help do this, you might:
- ask for an interpreter if you need one (though this may take some time to arrange)
- ask how your privacy and confidentiality will be respected
- ask your mental health worker if they have worked with people from your community before, and how they like to work with people going through challenges similar to yours.
Say something if you aren’t happy
It’s important to let your mental health worker know if you have any concerns during your sessions or if something makes you feel uncomfortable. This isn’t being disrespectful. You have the right to give feedback about your sessions and it helps mental health workers to adjust their approach to be more helpful.
Your privacy is important
You may be worried about your family or community finding out that you’re seeking mental health support. This might even make you unsure about reaching out for help. However, your privacy is really important and health services have processes in place to protect it.
When you talk to a mental health worker or GP, they cannot share what you talk about with your family unless you say it’s OK. There are a few exceptions, for example if the health worker is concerned about your safety or the safety of someone else. If this happens, the worker will try to talk to you first about what needs to happen and what extra support you need to help you be safe.
If you’re on the same Medicare card as your family, you may be concerned about your privacy. You can find information about how to apply for your own Medicare card here.
One step at a time
Finding the right support for your mental health will help you feel more connected to yourself and those who matter to you.
Getting help isn’t always straightforward though – sometimes it can take a few attempts to find the right support. You might also find that you need help to get help.
You don’t have to have these conversations and navigate the mental health system alone. Start with someone you trust and take it one step at a time until you have the support you need. You deserve to have the right mental health support for you.
Yamiko Marama, Clinical Consultant, Knowledge Translation Division, Orygen
The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.
Last reviewed 2 August 2022