By Margot Garnier
Half of all clients with Ireland’s main health support organisation for ethnic minorities do not seek help in relation to mental health issues they may be facing, it’s been claimed.
The revelation was made at the recent launch of a new report by Cairde titled ‘Ethnic minorities and mental health in Ireland: barriers and recommendations’.
In the context of its migrant mental health initiative ‘Be Aware, Be Well’, Cairde used the report to explore the barriers impeding access to mental health services among ethnic minority groups.
“Migrants are more likely to seek informal help from their family, friends or religious leaders,” said project leader Emilia Marcheleweska. “They also tend to look for support from the people with the same ethnic background.
“There is a combination of factors to explain that tendency, such as the stigma and shame that people dealing with mental health issues are coping with; the communication and culture barriers or the financial difficulties.”
Those sentiments were echoed by speakers from different ethnic groups during the launch event.
“Mental health is negatively viewed among the Roma community,” said Izabela Ciulin. “We are always trying to solve our problems in family or with the help of the pastor.”
According to the speaker Betsy Abu, mental health issues are also strongly stigmatised among the African community.
“In our culture, mental health means madness,” she said. “People will not seek for help because they are feeling ashamed and fearing discrimination.
“And moreover, most of the mental health services available in Ireland are not culturally appropriate for communities,” she added, an issue supported by findings highlighted in the report.
“Solutions to our problems are not universal but based on our culture, tradition and language,” said another speaker, Violeta Mooney.
Cairde put forward three key recommendation to improve provision of assistance to those dealing with mental health issues. The first is to build capacity in ethnic minority communities to address mental health needs by, for example, organising culturally appropriate awareness activities.
The second is to provide free access to mental health services for people on low incomes, including offering translation and interpretation, as well as intercultural training for professionals.
Thirdly, Cairde encourages the creation of a platform for collaboration between community members, ethnic minority health professionals and mainstream service providers so that they can work together to tackle persisting health inequalities.