Mental Health Literacy

About 1 in 5 adult Australians will suffer from mental health problems in any one year. However, compared to the mainstream population, a large proportion of people in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities who experience challenges to mental wellbeing, do not seek the support they require. This is even more pronounced within the refugee and asylum seeker populations.

Research has indicated that low rates of mental health literacy and awareness has often resulted in stigmatised attitudes towards health and wellbeing. This often prevents people in CALD communities from seeking support or disengaging from programs to which they have been referred.

Mental Health Literacy and Promotion Program for Arabic Speaking Refugees

  • Investigators: Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan, Dr Russell Thomson
  • Funding: Anglicare

The Community Engagement project has been developed by Dr Shameran Younan from Western Sydney University, in partnership with NSW Refugee Health Service. It aims to Increase awareness of the importance of wellbeing; Increase mental health literacy; Reduce stigma; Help create a more supportive community. By creating a community that is more accepting of mental health and supportive of people, individuals within the community would feel more safe to engage in help seeking behaviour to address their own individual mental health challenges.

Publication: Improving the mental wellbeing of Arabic speaking refugees: an evaluation of a mental health promotion program (opens in a new window)

Mental health literacy training program for Arabic-speaking spiritual and community leaders

  • Investigators: Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan
  • Partners: SWSLHD- Health Promotion | Fairfield City Health Alliance Health Literacy Working Group

Refugees have high levels of trauma-related disorders but low uptake of mental health care. Evidence suggests that in South Western Sydney, Arabic speaking refugees have poor knowledge and understanding of treatment of mental health problems and this is a significant barrier to accessing treatment. This project aims to implement and evaluate a mental health literacy training program for Arabic speaking spiritual and community leaders in Fairfield LGA.

 

Completed Research

Mental health literacy in a resettled refugee community in New South Wales: Paving the way for mental health promotion in vulnerable communities

  • Researchers: Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan, Dr Jonathan Mond,  Dr Mitchell Smith, Ms Diana Milosevic, Professor Anthony Francis Jorm
  • Funding: University of Western Sydney & South Western Sydney Local Health District

Resettled refugees are a particularly vulnerable group.  They have very high levels of mental health problems, in particular, trauma-related disorders, but very low uptake of mental health care.  Evidence suggests that poor "mental health literacy", namely, poor knowledge and understanding of the nature and treatment of mental health problems is a major factor in low or inappropriate treatment seeking among individuals with mental health problems.  Hence, efforts are needed to identify specific aspects of mental health literacy likely to be problematic in different demographic subgroups and to use this information to develop health promotion programs.View final project report PDF, 939 KB (opens in a new window)

Mental Health First Aid for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Depression: The Development of First Aid Guidelines for Frontline Community Workers Assisting Resettled Refugees

  • Researchers: Ms Maria Gabriela Uribe Guajardo, Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan, Professor Anthony Francis Jorm
  • Funding: PhD study and Cross Cultural Public Health Research Award

This study aims to develop culturally appropriate evidence-based actions to assist individuals from a refugee background.  By building on the highly successful standard MHFA training, these guidelines will inform tailored education on how to help an Iraqi refugee presenting with common mental health problems such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder among others. Future directions will include the delivery and evaluation of this tailored educational program, currently being undertaken.View guidelines PDF, 1008.19 KB (opens in a new window)

Mental Health Literacy of Resettled Afghan Refugee Communities in Australia: An Exploration of How Resettled Refugees Understand Trauma Related Mental Health Disorders and Treatment Practices

  • Researchers: Ms Anisa Yaser , Shameran Slewa-Younan, Caroline A Smith, Rebecca E. Olson, Jonathan Mond

Resettled refugees are a particularly vulnerable group given the high prevalence of exposure to traumatic events and the known links between such exposure and mental health impairment.  It is particularly concerning that despite the very high levels of mental health problems, in particular, trauma-related disorders, there is very low uptake of mental health care.  Evidence suggests that poor "mental health literacy", namely, poor knowledge and understanding of the nature and treatment of mental health problems is a major factor in low or inappropriate treatment seeking among individuals with mental health problems.  Currently, one of the largest groups of refugees being resettled in Australia are those who originate from Afghanistan. This study seeks to examine the "mental healthy literacy" of resettled Afghan refugees in Adelaide, South Australia using a mixed methods design. It is proposed that information collected in this thesis will be used to develop culturally appropriate and responsive health promotion programs.

Assessing Mental Health Literacy in undergraduate health professional students at entry level in the UAE

  • Researchers: Dr Rachel Rossiter, Dr Nabeel Al Yateem, Dr Shameran Slewa-Younan
  • Funding: Al Jalila Foundation

Health literacy has been shown to influence recognition of and appropriate treatment-seeking behaviors. As health professionals play a vital role in developing the health literacy of community members and supporting early intervention programs, it is vital that they themselves have a high level of health literacy. Mental health literacy has received much less attention than literacy regarding physical health issues. Low levels of mental health literacy have been identified in many countries and this has been identified as an area requiring focused attention. In contrast, increased level of stress and at times distress have been reported in students undertaking tertiary studies. Providing interventions to enhance student resilience has been described as key to universities meeting their role in supporting student well being. This project will measure psychological distress and to describe mental health literacy amongst students at entry level to undergraduate studies as health professionals in the UAE. Findings will be used to inform future initiatives to support student well being and to inform development of courses and curricula that will improve mental health literacy. The overall aim is to prepare competent health professionals who are able to identify, screen and handle different mental health problems within the UAE.