A national framework for recovery-oriented mental health services: guide for practitioners and providers

Capability 2C: Responsive to people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, their families and communities

Page last updated: 2013

Recovery-oriented mental health practice and service delivery addresses barriers to services encountered by people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds including people seeking asylum.

Core principles

  • Recovery is a collection of processes that occur within a web of relations including the individual, family and community and is contextualised by culture, language, oppression and privilege, history and the social determinants of health.
  • Responsiveness to people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds requires organisational capacity at different levels: systemic, organisational and practice.
  • Recognising the diverse ways in which the concepts of mental health, mental illness and recovery may be understood by people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds requires an awareness of the impact of the practitioner’s own ethnocultural identity, as well as that of the organisation and service system.

Characteristics

Values and attitudes

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • demonstrate compassion and respect for people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds
  • reflect on their own identities and relationship to people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds
  • reflect on their own assumptions about people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds
  • demonstrate openness to other people’s perspectives of mental health, illness and recovery

Knowledge

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • have knowledge of local immigrant and refugee communities
  • understand the possible impacts of migration or of seeking refuge
  • are alert to cultural differences in idioms of distress, symptom presentation and explanatory models of health and illness
  • are mindful that racism, access barriers and other social factors can increase health disparities and impede people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds from knowing and exercising their rights
  • know community organisations and resources that support people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds Top of page

Skills and behaviours

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • actively explore how people and their families from immigrant and refugee backgrounds understand mental health, illness and recovery
  • work effectively with interpreters, cultural brokers as well as immigrant and refugee settlement workers, bilingual community workers, and faith leaders to support a person’s recovery plans
  • provide people and their families with the information they need to make decisions about their mental health care including written information in easy to read English or in community languages and/or explained via an interpreter
  • support people from immigrant and refugee backgrounds to know and exercise their human rights and legal rights
  • respond to the additional needs of people and families from refugee backgrounds

Recovery-oriented practice

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • apply culturally responsive practice is to all consumers, not just those from immigrant and refugee backgrounds
  • respect and respond to people’s cultural and religious beliefs and faith traditions
  • engage with people in the context of their families and important relationships and, where appropriate, other members of their community
  • involve and support family members and other significant people Top of page

Recovery-oriented leadership

Mental health practitioners and providers...
  • put processes and service development initiatives in place to become an effective culturally responsive organisation including language policies, cultural diversity plans, data collection/analysis related to local populations, and working groups to champion cultural issues
  • establish systems to ensure practitioners work effectively with interpreters and provide appropriate translated material
  • provide staff with opportunities to acquire the core attitudes, knowledge and skills necessary for working effectively with immigrant and refugees
  • support practitioners to respect people’s cultural and other human rights
  • recognise the time that is needed for practitioners to include families and carers
  • actively seek the participation of people with lived experience of mental health issues and family members and carers from immigrant and refugee backgrounds
  • foster particular workforce positions and roles that will address the specific needs of the local population, for example, bilingual workers, cultural liaison workers, immigrant and refugee peer workers, cultural portfolio holders or champions.

Opportunities

  • Develop partnerships with immigrant and refugee community organisations and ethnospecific community networks and undertake community development initiatives.
  • Develop a whole-of-organisation cultural responsiveness plan.
  • Participate in community events such as Cultural Diversity Week, Refugee Week and other festivals and celebrations.
  • Subscribe to multicultural organisations’ e-bulletins, for example, Federation of Ethnic Community Councils and the Australian Collaboration. Top of page

Resource materials