Important considerations when providing mental health first aid to Iraqi refugees in Australia

Important considerations when providing mental health first aid to Iraqi refugees in Australia: a Delphi study

Maria Gabriela Uribe Guajardo ¹, Shameran Slewa-Younan ², Yvonne Santalucia ³ and Anthony Francis Jorm⁴.

  1. PhD Candidate, Mental Health, Centre for Health Research, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University. E:m.uribe@westernsydney.edu.au
  2. Senior Lecturer, Mental Health, Centre for Health Research, School of Medicine, Western Sydney University. Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. E: slewa-younan@westernsydney.edu.au
  3. Multicultural Aged Officer, Health Promotion Service, Multicultural Health, South Western Sydney Local Health District. E: Yvonne.santalucia@sswahs.nsw.gov.au
  4. Professorial Fellow and NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow, Centre for Mental Health, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne. E: ajorm@unimelb.edu.au

Background

Maria Gabriela Uribe Guajardo

Refugees are one of the most vulnerable groups in Australian society, presenting high levels of exposure to traumatic events and consequently high levels of severe psychological distress. While there is a need for professional help, only a small percentage will receive appropriate care for their mental health concerns. This study aimed to determine cultural considerations required when providing mental health first aid to Iraqi refugees experiencing mental health problems or crises. This study is expected to build cultural capacity at an Australian community level, by using a validated consensus method, which is deemed to be essential for effective cross-cultural interventions.

Method

The research questions were: (1) what culturally appropriate mental health first aid strategies have been proposed for assisting Iraqi refugees in mental health crises or in the development of mental health problems? and (2) which of these are considered by experts in the field to be the most appropriate strategies for assisting this group?

Using a Delphi method, 16 experts were presented with statements about possible culturally-appropriate first aid actions via questionnaires and were encouraged to suggest additional actions not covered by the questionnaire content. Statements were accepted for inclusion in a guideline if they were endorsed by ≥90 % of panellists as ‘Essential’ or ‘Important’.

The expert panel was composed of professionals who meet the following selection criteria: qualified as a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist, general practitioner or mental health professional; and have worked in refugee mental health for at least 4 years and have experience working with Iraqi refugees.

Results

From a total of 65 statements, 38 were endorsed (17 for cultural awareness, 12 for cross-cultural communication, 7 for stigma associated with mental health problems, and 2 for barriers to seeking professional help).

Conclusion

Experts were able to reach consensus about how to provide culturally-appropriate first aid for mental health problems to Iraqi refugees, demonstrating the suitability of this methodology in developing cultural considerations guidelines. This specific refugee study provided potentially valuable cultural knowledge required to better equip members of the Australian public on how to respond to and assist Iraqi refugees experiencing mental health problems or crises.

Click the link bellow to access the full article published at the International Journal of Mental Health Systems
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5009547/

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