Improving mental health among migrant and refugee women

Media release: 10 August 2022

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health is excited to announce the launch of our new advocacy and research project, Building Bridges, which aims to strengthen mental health services for migrant and refugee women.  

The project will ensure migrant and refugee women participate directly in the mental health reform process through community conversations called Share Circles. 

Evidence gathered from the Share Circles will provide in-depth information about the complexity of migrant and refugee women’s experiences of mental health, as well as the effectiveness and appropriateness of the mental health system in supporting this community. 

The project will also collect data from key mental health and community organisations through consultations, generating evidence that will inform how policies and practices related to the mental health system can be strengthened. 

The urgent need for a gendered, intersectional analysis of Australia’s mental health system cannot be understated. Evidence shows that women experience higher rates of psychological distress than men, with two to three times more women than men experiencing depression and anxiety. 

This suggests how gendered inequalities, such as the gender pay gap, experiences of family violence, workplace discrimination and gendered assumptions about caring duties, put women at greater risk of mental illness.  

For migrant and refugee women, these factors are further compounded by the migrant experience, facing additional inequalities such as racial bias, financial barriers, social isolation and precarious employment conditions. 

Furthermore, organisational and sector-level barriers, such as the lack of cultural and gender responsive policies, lack of trained bilingual practitioners and unaffordability of health services have been found to limit the utilisation of services for migrant and refugee women. 

“We know that migrant and refugee women can experience intersecting gendered, and migration-related inequalities which can make them particularly vulnerable to mental health conditions,” said Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo. 

“We are thrilled that our project will provide an opportunity for migrant and refugee women’s experience and voices to be included in the reform process so that the system can better meet their needs.” 

Building Bridges will respond to the critical need to create an accessible, gender equitable, and culturally and linguistically responsive mental health system. It will ultimately help to inform what intersectional, targeted prevention and effective community-based programs for migrant and refugee women should look like. 

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