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Prioritising suicide prevention in refugee communities

15 June 2020

Australian Refugee Week (14- 20 June) celebrates the positive contributions refugees bring to Australian society and culture.

It also provides a pivotal opportunity to educate Australians about the experiences that refugees share, and the challenges refugees may face in settling within Australia, particularly when it comes to their mental health and wellbeing.

Everymind is pleased to announce that the Institute is currently working with the NSW Ministry of Health, Mental Health Branch to develop a new training package to support suicide prevention in refugees.

The training aims to improve knowledge, skills and confidence of the Mental Health Community Living Supports for Refugees (MH-CLSR) workforce, as well as NSW Local Health District mental health staff to identify and address suicide risk in refugees and asylum seekers.

With Australia’s refugee population reaching 56,933 in 2018, Everymind Acting Director, Associate Professor Carmel Loughland shared that it is important to prioritise mental health and suicide prevention research and activities in refugee and asylum seeker populations.

“Studies have shown that individuals from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds tend to have higher rates of mental ill-health compared to those of non-migrant backgrounds,” Associate Professor Loughland said.

“There has never been a more important time to consider how refugee-specific suicide prevention activities can improve mental health outcomes for refugees.”

“It is important to note that while pre-migration experiences can greatly influence refugee mental health and wellbeing, research has also found that an individual’s mental health is also shaped by their experiences post-migration and we all have an important role to play in making sure this is a positive one,” said Associate Professor Loughland.

Many refugees have been exposed to factors that may negatively influence their mental health and it is important to note that loss of family members and loss of community and culture through displacement may contribute to poorer mental health outcomes and suicidality in some refugees.

Although a range of refugee support services and programs operate in Australia, refugee mental health and suicide prevention is an area that requires further research and support.

“The investment from the NSW Ministry of Health, Mental Health Branch to support this work is an important step towards supporting the mental health and wellbeing of refugees,” said Associate Professor Loughland.

“We’re looking forward to working with professionals in the mental health sector who support refugees and asylum seekers to build capacity of staff and decrease suicidal risk for refugees and asylum seekers accessing services.”

Learn more

For more information on the development of this new training package to support refugees, visit our program page.

Find out more

References

1. Australia, R.C.o. Refugees in Australia: a quick guide. 2019 [cited 2020 5 May]; Available from: https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/quick-guide/.

2. Procter, N. Preventing Refugee and Asylum Seeker Suicide. 2019. 58.

3. Hynie, M., The Social Determinants of Refugee Mental Health in the Post-Migration Context: A Critical Review. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 2017. 6(5): p. 7.