• Rajesh Reknar said he sought help for severe depression after the breakdown of his family. (SBS World News )
Mental illness isn't uncommon for new arrivals to Australia, especially those who have experienced trauma through war, famine, disease or even time in refugee camps.
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11 Oct - 8:52 PM  UPDATED 11 Oct - 9:25 PM

There are concerns rates of mental illness among Australia's migrant population are not being recorded accurately.

This has sparked calls for culturally-specific programs to document and treat conditions.

Twelve months ago architect Rajesh Reknar was diagnosed with severe depression after the breakdown of his family.

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The Indian national said he had attempted suicide during the low point in his life.

"I attempted to kill myself, a lot of stressful... I couldn't find any hope for my future and my goals and various aspects added to that like there is no hope,” Mr Reknar said.

Mr Reknar's psychiatrist Dr Mandula O'Connor said the barriers and issues faced by migrant groups required a specific response.

"We need to de-stigmatise, we need to raise awareness, we need to use innovative and clever means of reaching populations… people in a way that speaks to them culturally in a way that is culturally nuanced," Dr O'Connor said.

The Victorian government has announced a funding boost for mental health treatment in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

One of the recipients is Diversitat, a settlement program providing a range of culturally specific programs such as gardening, music and art.

The program also helps to link participants with appropriate services.

Dr O'Connor felt these are the types of programs that can help authorities better assess issues surrounding mental health issues in migrant communities.

"What are the social factors that impact mental illness? What are the societal and cultural factors that we can manipulate to change a mental health situation?

“It's not always relational problems, which is how most people identify mental health issues as."

But leading academic Dr Harry Minas from the University of Melbourne, feels that the sector is facing a significant problem.

Dr Minas said limited resources meant non-English speakers were frequently excluded from mental health research projects.

He said this meant there was a lack of accurate data around vulnerable communities.

"If we don't have that evidence about specific sub-sections of the population then we don't know whether what we are doing is the most efficient and effective way of responding to problems,” he said.

Dr Minas is one of the health professionals who are calling for more funding to be directed to Australia's culturally diverse communities.

If you are struggling mentally contact lifeline crisis support and suicide prevention on 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au.