Coming Up Wed 9:00 PM  AEDT
Coming Up Live in 
Punjabi radio

Mental health ambassador says stigma is deterring migrants from seeking help

Ritu Kukreja has been trying to spread awareness on mental health issues. Source: Getty / Ritu Kukreja

Ritu Kukreja, an ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation of Australia (MHFA), says migrant communities may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health due to the challenges of the postmigration environment. She says community leaders should step up to change the culture and de-stigmatise mental ill-health.

There is no shame in asking for help, believes Ritu Kukreja, one of the MHFA ambassadors.

She says that the widespread stigma associated with mental health can leave many people in the Indian community unaware of how they can seek help, making them wary of approaching health care facilities.

"Professionally and culturally appropriate mental health activities are available to help you cope," she says.


  • Ritu Kukreja is an ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation of Australia (MHFA)
  • "Community efforts and de-stigmatising people seeking help is most crucial in these challenging times"

Ms Kukreja says mental health cannot be separated from physical wellbeing, and one should give equal attention to both.

"When anyone gets physically hurt, we get it treated and fixed by the doctors, but how often do we do the same with mental health issues?" she questions.

Asking 'R you OK' just on one day is not okay

"Regular check over your loved ones is the most important preventive measure and is important for even those who are not going through any mental health issue," she suggests.

Ms Kukreja, who was recently recognised by the Parliament of Victoria for her commitment to community advocacy and mental health support throughout the ongoing health crisis says COVID-induced lockdowns have further aggravated mental health woes among migrant communities. 

"COVID restrictions and border closures have deeply affected migrant communities. As a result, number of people calling for help for depression and anxiety has grown in these past 18 months," she says.

What can be done?

Ms Kukreja believes the critical gaps in mental health care and awareness need to be addressed in migrant populations.

"Mental health can be improved through community efforts such as de-stigmatising people seeking help or enhancing the working environment to promote mental wellness. Although barriers exist, many resources are available that can assist people in receiving proper support.

"Mental health professionals familiar with your culture may be the most suitable for migrants. Cultural awareness and a tailored approach to meet the needs of individuals is what we need in these challenging times," she says.

Punjabi Mental Health
Mental health ambassador Ritu Kukreja advocates for culturally competent care for migrant communities.
Getty Momen RF

October is observed as mental health month to raise awareness about mental health issues and promote social and emotional wellbeing.


Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline for 24-7 crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond and Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.


Click on the player at the top of the page to listen to this interview in Punjabi.

SBS is committed to informing Australia's diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at

Listen to SBS Punjabi Monday to Friday at 9 pm. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Coming up next

Mental health ambassador says stigma is deterring migrants from seeking help 21/10/2021 00:59 ...
SBS Punjabi Australia News: Tuesday 7 Dec 2021 07/12/2021 10:00 ...
Punjabi Diary: Congress ropes in singer Sidhu Moosewala to attract young voters 07/12/2021 08:00 ...
Australia's delay in reopening international borders has brought tourism industry on its knees, says travel agent 07/12/2021 12:00 ...
TGA provisionally approves vaccine for children 5-11 06/12/2021 08:34 ...
SBS Punjabi Australia News: Monday 6th Dec 2021 06/12/2021 12:00 ...
Interview with Pakistani Punjabi writer and poet Mehmood Awan 06/12/2021 11:51 ...
International students turn away from Australia amid uncertainty over border reopening 06/12/2021 08:52 ...
Cancer death rates decline - but more in men than women 06/12/2021 07:26 ...
Omicron investigations to understand the threat 06/12/2021 07:11 ...
View More