Edition 01

What is MHiMA all about?

The Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHiMA) project is funded by the Department of Health & Ageing (DOHA). It was launched in July 2011 to provide a national focus on mental health and suicide prevention for immigrants, refugees and their families.

MHiMA's Vision:

The overarching vision and philosophy of MHiMA 'Building Capacity & Supporting Inclusion' is for an open and inclusive society that is committed to human rights and diversity, in which everyone is able to access mental health services equitably, regardless of their cultural or linguistic background, and receive a culturally responsive service.

MHiMA will be a key mechanism to build capacity in multicultural mental health nationally, through strategic alignment with national mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.

This will be done by:

Offering advice and support to government and non-government providers and service users on mental health and suicide prevention related issues for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds;
Supporting primary health care professionals, including general practitioners and allied health practitioners, to address the mental health needs of consumers from CALD backgrounds and their carers;
Supporting development of mental health services that are culturally responsive, evidence-based and recovery-oriented;
Working to address the range of mental health needs that individuals may experience across the lifespan;
Engaging with relevant stakeholders in every state and territory by developing collaborative partnerships and adopting a flexible approach that is responsive to issues arising in a rapidly changing environment.

To meet members of the MHiMA team please click here

Welcome to the first edition of the Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHiMA) Newsletter, which we will distribute quarterly to keep you updated about key project developments.

MHiMA is a consortium of organisations that has been formed because of the ever increasing cultural diversity of our landscape and the growing complexity of mental health issues within our multicultural community.

Representatives from the Queensland Transcultural Mental Health Centre (QTMHC), Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit (VTPU) at St Vincents Hospital Melbourne, Centre for International Mental Health (CIMH) at University of Melbourne and University of South Australia (UniSA) will work together to build capacity in multicultural mental health nationally via strategic alignment with national mental health and suicide prevention initiatives and strategic level engagement with the jurisdictions.

MHiMA has completed a series of nationwide consultations with the sector, including health professionals, multicultural community groups, consumers and carers. This has provided very valuable insight and we look forward to continuing an open dialogue with everyone involved through a range of engagement mechanisms. We listened to the opinions that were expressed and we have clear actions that form an integral part of our strategic plan that runs from 2012 to 2014 "Building Capacity & Supporting Inclusion", which is available on our website. The feedback from our national consultations will also enable MHiMA to open up the debate across the country around what it means to have culturally responsive mental health services. A summary of findings from these consultations are included in this newsletter.

The first edition of the MHiMA Newsletter also includes an overview of the immediate priorities for MHiMA. We are seeking your support and involvement in our work. Please stay in touch via our website  www.mhima.org.au

I'm personally very excited to be involved in a project that will make such a difference to so many peoples lives and I look forward to working with a team of passionate individuals and partners across Australia.

Hamza Vayani
Executive Officer

What you told us - MHiMA's National Consultations

Consultations around MHiMA's strategic priorities took place in each state and territory from March to May 2012. These national consultations have informed the development of MHiMA's strategic plan for 2012 to 2014 - "Building Capacity & Supporting Inclusion"; and to ensure that MHiMA will represent the interests of and respond to the challenges facing multicultural mental health.

Nearly 250 people comprising of key stakeholders in the multicultural, mental health and suicide prevention sectors took part in the consultations.

Common themes that emerged from the consultations were:

Consumer and carer participation
Community engagement and partnerships
Policy development and implementation
Promotion, prevention, early intervention, stigma Reduction and suicide prevention
Workforce and leadership development
Service Access, coordination and continuity of care
Research, evaluation, knowledge exchange and innovation

These common themes have informed our eight work domains. The following comments were made in relation to each of the MHiMA work domains:

The importance of stigma reduction and the necessity of implementing more health promotion, prevention and early intervention programs;
Participants strongly urged MHiMA to play an active role in policy development and contribute to leading reforms that will benefit the health and well-being of immigrants, refugees and their families;
Consumer and carer participation is seen as critical, community engagement and partnership was recognised as crucial across the nation if we are to foster change and improvement;
Service access, coordination and continuity of care, as well as the workforce and leadership development domain, should consider all health service sectors;
Participants outlined the need for research that will improve understanding of mental health and suicide prevention issues for CALD communities and their service use.
Participants across the country consistently suggested targeting specific high needs groups, such as asylum seekers, children and young people, women and older people.

Identifying opportunities to progress the issues in each state and territory

When asked to identify barriers to progress this national agenda, participants mentioned three levels of concern. Firstly, at a policy level, including concern around the sustainability of the MHiMA project in an environment of limited funding and competitive tendering. Secondly, at a service level, participants identified lack of coordination, collaboration and communication as major barriers to positive mental health outcomes. Finally, at an individual level, participants suggested that the broadly negative public perception of mental illness, the stigma that is strongly held in some communities and the small size of some ethnic communities could dissuade people to seek the help that they need.

Ways to ensure the participation of consumers and carers

Consumers and carers were seen as essential partners and that MHiMA should include them in all aspects of the project. Participants stressed that community engagement in CALD communities is complex and needs to take into account many factors such as language, protocols and ethics. There is also a need to recognise different health literacy levels and different needs across diverse cultures. Non-government organisations are in a
strong position to do this; especially those that employ key individuals who are recognised as leaders in particular communities.

Indicators of MHiMA's success

A number of indicators were suggested: measuring the impact of activities on heath and wellbeing such as a reduction in suicide rates, improved mental health and increased community awareness. Others hoped for changes to policy, improved community education and better access and utilisation of services by CALD communities. MHiMA is now entering an exciting second phase where partnerships, more conversations and action will be on the agenda to make sure that our priorities and outcomes which are set out in our strategic plan are met.

How MHiMA will ensure that the conversations continue

A comprehensive communication strategy has been developed and its two key functions are:

Communicating the activities and work of the MHiMA project; and
Supporting the actions and outcomes across the eight strategic domains.

Key communication objectives for MHiMA are to share knowledge and deliver understanding among those working in and affected by mental health in multicultural Australia. The communications strategy includes approaches to diverse audiences through a variety of mediums. MHiMA will be working closely with organisations and individuals affected by mental health to ensure their needs and issues are addressed. Our work will focus on raising awareness of MHiMA as a national resource that delivers knowledge and education while fostering understanding.

Please go to our website  www.mhima.org.au for more news and updates.