By Shikha Malviya
Australia is a multicultural and linguistically diverse country. The recent census revealed that about 50% of Australian are either born overseas or at least have one parent who was born outside Australia. About 5.5 million people speak a language other than English at home and a substantial number of people do not speak English at all (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022).
Due to the ongoing requirement for skilled care workers, and policies related to the acceptance of humanitarian entrants, this number is likely to increase.
People from culturally and linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds are more likely to face mental health challenges due to the trauma they experienced before migration, the stresses of adapting to a new culture, and limited language proficiency. Despite this, many CALD people do not access mental health services, leaving them vulnerable and unsupported.
People from CALD backgrounds often strongly identify with their religion and spiritual tradition and frequently rely on religious sources to get mental health support. Despite this, religion/spirituality is not typically a part of their mental health care in the current health system.
This may be one of the reasons for the lack of uptake of mental health services among CALD populations. As an advocate for inclusive and accessible mental health care for all Australians, I believe that it is critical to explore the inclusion of religion/spirituality in the mental health care of CALD populations.
In my recent research, I reviewed the studies regarding the inclusion of religion/spirituality in the mental health care of the CALD population. The research suggests that people from CALD backgrounds draw strength and comfort from their religion to support mental health. They often use religious/spiritual practices as mental health strategies to cope with mental health. People from CALD communities prefer to approach their religious leaders for mental health support and guidance.
Evidence suggests that despite cultural training, mental health workers currently may not have an adequate understanding of the religious and cultural beliefs of diverse religions, which may lead to confusion and mistrust in services among people from CALD backgrounds.
Some recommendations stemmed from the review. Since religious leaders play an important role in mental health for CALD communities, their involvement in mental health care may be an important step. Involving religious leaders and mental health professionals a collaborative model of care may be developed that may provide mental health care to the CALD population.
We may explore the integration of religious/spiritual practices in mainstream mental health care. Some of the spiritual practices that have substantial evidence of mental health benefits may be explored further to be used to support mental health. Practices such as yoga are body-based and may not require language skills may be offered to CALD people who are reluctant to attend conventional mental health interventions.
Additionally, mental health professionals who provide care to the CALD population should receive in-depth training on various religions and cultures.
Australia is rapidly changing, and mental health care needs to keep up with changing mental health needs of Australians. Only through this inclusive approach can we ensure that all Australians have access to the mental health care they need and deserve.
Author: Shikha Malviya is a PhD candidate at Central Queensland University. Her research explores the use of spiritual/religious practices as mental health interventions. She has published many research papers and is passionate about integrating these practices into mainstream mental health interventions. Shikha is a mental health occupational therapist and psychotherapist by profession and has more than 15 years of experience working in various mental health settings in Australia and Singapore.