Improving access to and engagement with mental health services among young people from refugee backgrounds: service user and provider perspectives

Author(s): Erminia COLUCCI ; Madeleine VALIBHOY ; Josef SZWARC ; Ida KAPLAN ; Harry MINAS


Limited research has been conducted worldwide on the experiences that children and young people from refugee backgrounds have with mental health services, despite evidence that they have significant vulnerability to the development of mental health problems and to suicidal behaviour and that those with mental ill-health typically underutilise services. The authors were particularly interested in barriers and facilitators to service access and engagement, and conducted two qualitative research projects to improve understanding of the issues – the first with service providers experienced in the refugee area and the second with young refugee service users. The aim of this project was to compare the perspectives of professionals and service users and to identify similarities and differences. The perspectives of the service users and providers were strikingly similar. The analysis identified 21 implications for policy makers, agencies and practitioners, which ranged from issues concerning cultural sensitivity, background matching and mental health literacy to accessibility, setting boundaries and expectations and implementing a holistic and outreach approach. There is a range of specific, practical measures that policy makers and service providers can introduce to enhance access to and engagement with mental health services for young people from refugee backgrounds.


KEYWORDS: mental health serviceaccessutilisationyoung refugeeasylum seekerbarriersfacilitators

Tags: Australia, Youth, Adolescents, Young adults, Asylum seekers, Refugees, Access to mental health care

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