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Talking about mental health issues

Culturally diverse communities in Australia have reported considerable stigma and taboo associated with mental health issues.

Where possible, work in partnership with experienced caseworkers and other professionals who provide support to families from culturally diverse communities to help you to communicate sensitively about mental health and illness.

It is not always possible to do this, and this is ok. Being mindful of the possible sensitivities and communicating with respect and curiosity are a great way to start out.

Practice prompt

Language difficulties can isolate the parent and family from services even if their English is strong. When talking with a family, consider their proficiency in English. Can they understand English fluently? Is their fluency similar to people who speak English as a first language?

If a family's level of English is not fluent, use an interpreter and offer any documents to be translated. Never allow a child to translate for their parent or other family members.

Be aware that stress will affect a person’s ability to express themselves in their second language, and some of the information and concepts will be complex and not easily understood.

Talking about suicide

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The ‘Supporting CALD communities talk about suicide’ fact sheet, notes that:

‘When having any conversation about suicide, it’s important to consider different levels of understanding.

While cultural beliefs may have an impact on conversations about suicide, they should not be a reason to avoid the subject.

In many communities, suicide is very rarely spoken about and may be viewed as unacceptable, a sin or a crime. Historically, some suicides may have been covered up or denied.

Some communities may be fearful of talking about suicide due to concerns about suicide contagion or the impact of stigma.

Be aware of these factors and approach communities in respectful and empowering ways.’

Further reading

See Conversations matter for more practical advice. For fact sheets and podcasts specifically on talking about suicide see Resources for talking about suicide with CALD communities.

Practice prompt

Before talking about suicide, it is important to understand what the word ‘suicide’ means to the family and their community. Suicide is not a word translated into all other languages and can sometimes have religious or criminal meanings. See Conversations matter for more advice.

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