Mental Health Project

stressrelax-w200Melinda Woodhouse, one of our HARDA volunteers, conducted a study on Mental Health on behalf of HARDA.

The study ‘Healthy Minds: Perceptions of Mental Health and Wellbeing Among South Sudanese Australians’ was initiated by concerns of members of the South Sudanese community with increasing numbers of suicides. The study explores how mental health and wellbeing are conceptualised by South Sudanese Australians, the stressors that impact upon their mental health and whether the available services can be improved to enhance access and cultural relevance and thus the quality and outcomes from support available.

Ten semi-structured interviews were conducted with South Sudanese Australians from Inner West and Western Sydney. The interview guide was designed in consultation with South Sudanese community leaders and focused on perspectives of mental health and wellbeing, issues facing the community, the causes of mental ill health and their understanding of current and proposed services for their community. A thematic analysis was used to interpret the results.

The analysis revealed that South Sudanese Australians identify problems related to acculturation and resettlement with poor mental health; this contradicts the current focus of research and service provision, which aims to address the sequelae of torture and trauma. Learning to read and write, seek employment and pay bills and rent – day-to-day activities – were still difficult for many South Sudanese Australians despite years of living in Australia.

These findings can be explained through the integrative framework of acculturation and salutogenesis designed by Riedel, Wiesmann and Hannich (2011). This framework emphasises the impact of South Sudanese and Australian culture on the acculturation experience and explores the ways individuals respond to resettlement challenges. These are considered crucial to the promotion of mental health.

In order to address the community’s mental health and wellbeing there is a need for services that focus on acculturation challenges as opposed to mental illness. This study revealed that the services available to the community were not in line with cultural expectations and community needs. It draws attention to the need to extend the range and duration of resettlement support services for refugees beyond the current five-year duration. This research highlights the importance of adapting services in Australia to ensure their cultural relevance and sensitivity in order for them to be accepted and utilised by the Australian South Sudanese community.

If you are interested in getting the full report of this program, please feel free to contact us.