Settlement Guide

How to access mental health support?

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Almost half of Australians will experience mental health issues in their lifetime. While we hear more and more about the importance of mental health, a lot of people are still scared or unsure about how to ask for help.

How to access mental health support
Mental health issues can manifest themselves in different ways.

“Sometimes, people can feel overwhelmed and unable to manage daily activities or have difficulty sleeping or might feel an overwhelming sense of sadness or stress that's persistent over a number of days. People might experience feeling anxious or worried or not being interested in normal activities. They might lose appetite or be worried about a family member. Or maybe they have experienced a form of trauma before they came to Australia or after coming to Australia that might be impacting the way they carry out their daily activities," explains Ruth Das, from Mental Health Australia.

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Getty Images
Getty Images

And while anybody can struggle, migrants have to face even more challenges than the rest of the population. They have to deal with a new language and new ways of doing things, while also looking for work, housing, etc. Being new to Australia, it also means that they usually don't have as good of a support system as they used to have before moving.

“It takes time to get your support network and get people you can talk to about the things that you're feeling and going through at the time,” says Bronwyn Hall, the head of Community Support Services at beyondblue, an organisation working to address issues associated with mental disorders.

Getting help: Talk to your GP

Migrants tend to access mental health support services less than the rest of the Australian population. But services are available for them, often for free, and in many different languages.

The first place to go to is your GP, who can then refer you to the right mental health service. If you prefer to speak to your GP in a language other than English, you can request an interpreter and they will organise one for you.

Doctor In Consultation With Depressed Female Patient
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Getty Images

“There are some services that are available in different languages. Your GP should be able to direct you to what services are available. There are also specialised transcultural mental health services in a few states in Australia, particularly in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. They all have a transcultural mental health service, which can provide services in languages or in English and are specially designed for people who are migrants or refugees in Australia," says Ruth Das.

Call a helpline

If you want to have a chat about what you're going through or if you'd like to speak with somebody right away, you can call a free helpline like beyondblue at 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline at 13 11 14. You can also chat with somebody online at beyondblue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.

You can call for yourself or on behalf of a loved one that you’re worried about. If you want to chat in a language other than English, call the Translating and Interpreting Service first at 13 14 50 and ask to be connected with beyondblue or Lifeline.

The beyondblue website has mental health resources in several languages.

Man holding a phone
CC0 Creative Commons
CC0 Creative Commons

But no matter how you decide to go about it, it’s important to ask for help when you need it.

“The central message here is that all of us are vulnerable to issues around our mental health. It's part of our human condition. The research tells us that one half of adult Australians will, at some stage in their life, face a mental health issue or a period of time where their mental health needs particular attention,” says Alan Woodward, Executive Director for Strategy and Research at Lifeline.

If you'd like to access mental health support, make an appointment with your GP or local migrant resource centre.

You can also call a free helpline like beyondblue at 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline at 13 11 14. If you need an interpreter, call the Translating and Interpreting Service first at 13 14 50.