One in five Australians experience one or more form of mental disorder in any given year and more than 2,500 people in Australia die by suicide every year. Whilst most people pay significant attention to their physical health, the aspect of mental of health is often overlooked, especially by young migrants, says a Gold Coast-based mental health expert.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reiterates the definition of ‘health’ as a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Untreated, mental health issues can progress to major depression, anxiety disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, psychosis and even suicidal tendencies.
Dr Neeraj Gill who is a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service in Queensland tells SBS Punjabi that young migrants often struggle with mental health support.
“Mental health is a very challenging subject to tackle in the culturally and linguistically diverse communities [CALD],” he said.
“There could be multiple reasons leading to this sad trend, like the stigma associated with this issue, language and cultural barriers, limited social support, financial and visa issues, and so on.”
Dr Gill says people must understand that seeking help during moments of vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, and mental health issues are nothing to feel ashamed of any stigmatised about.
“We all go through periods of grief, sadness or nervousness due to bereavement, loss or stress; the last thing we need is to apply a psychiatric diagnostic label to those normal human emotions in response to real-life stressors,” he added.
“However, if those emotional or psychological issues become severe or persistent, it is important to seek professional help, to ensure early intervention.”
Dr Gill advises that while social support of family and friends is always a good place to start, professional help may be sought if emotional and psychological issues start to cause significant distress or dysfunction.
“Your General Practitioner (GP) is often well-placed to provide that initial mental health input. The GP can prepare a mental health care plan to refer an individual to a psychologist or any other specialist for mental health assessment and input if needed,” he said.
When it comes to tackle suicide, the social aspects of mental health including support of family and friends and a sense of belonging to a community can play a big role.
Dr Gill said that the young migrants including international students are severely affected by many social determinants of mental health.
“We as a society need to help them when they need it the most - they may need help in studies, housing, employment, financial stability and social-connectedness….. and I think for situations like this, people at a community level could be of great help.”
Dr Gill also emphasised on the social interventions including addressing the issues of loneliness, bullying, domestic violence or housing and job-related issues.
“Evidently, if social issues are causing or contributing to mental health issues, holistic treatment would have to include addressing those underlying causative factors,” he said.
“We should also be mindful of lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, drugs and alcohol use, as well as hobbies, interests or leisure activities.”
He said that alcohol can cause or exacerbate depression and illicit drugs can cause depression, mania or psychosis.
“There is no substitute for a healthy diet and exercise as they enhance a sense of well-being. Often, joining a hobby-class or rejuvenating interest in gardening, painting, music or just going for a morning walk can be uplifting, so don’t just give up but give your best.”
Dr Gill who also works as an Associate Professor at the Rural Clinical School, University of Queensland and Griffith University School of Medicine urged more people to come forward to avail the mental health support.
“I would also urge community leaders to come forward in order to promote positive mental health by raising awareness and reducing stigma,” he said.
“We are also working to form a consortium consisting of Indian-origin doctors from all across Australia. If needed, they’ll also be available to assist people for their in-language needs.
More information about mental health is available at Beyond Blue.org.au. Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25) can be reached on 1800 55 1800.
In case of crisis you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and via lifeline.org.au, as well as the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.