Young service users from refugee backgrounds: their perspectives on barriers to accessing Australian mental health services

Madeleine Claire Valibhoy (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, Melbourne, Australia)
Josef Szwarc (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, Melbourne, Australia)
Ida Kaplan (Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare

ISSN: 2056-4902

Publication date: 13 March 2017

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine barriers to accessing mental health services, from the perspective of young people of refugee background who have been service users, and to suggest strategies to improve access to mental health services.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative study was conducted with 16 young people (aged 18-25), who had been refugees and who had attended mental health professionals in Australia. Interview transcripts were analysed thematically to examine participants’ perspectives on what hinders initial access to mental health services.

Findings

Stigma about mental health problems was particularly prominent. Many believed a high level of disturbance was the threshold for entering services, and for some there was no knowledge of such services’ existence. Options for assistance other than mental health services were often preferred, according to young people’s explanatory models. Apprehension was expressed that sessions would be uncomfortable, distressing or ineffective. The desire to be self-reliant functioned as a further barrier. Finally, structural obstacles and social exclusion deterred some young refugees from accessing services.

Practical implications

Implications include the need for service providers to be equipped to provide culturally sensitive, responsive services that ideally offer both practical and psychological assistance. Potential referrers, including health professionals and community leaders, could facilitate increased access if trained to recognise and address barriers. Finally, findings indicate potential content for awareness-raising initiatives for young refugees about mental health problems and services.

Originality/value

This paper is original in its sample, method, topic and findings; being drawn from the first known qualitative research exploring views of young mental health service users who have been refugees about barriers to accessing mental health services.

Keywords

Citation

Valibhoy, M., Szwarc, J. and Kaplan, I. (2017), "Young service users from refugee backgrounds: their perspectives on barriers to accessing Australian mental health services", International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 68-80. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJHRH-07-2016-0010

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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