CALD Women and Mental Health Seminar

Last week saw CALD women come together at the Rydges Parramatta to break the stigma attached to mental health related illnesses within their communities and discuss some practical solutions.

The Mental Health and Wellbeing High Tea Seminar for CALD women was initiated to provide women with an outlet. One of the seminar organisers Dativah Nitsios (Community Development Officer, CMRC), who focuses much of her work on developing and empowering women, said “I wanted to start this high tea so that we can be able to start a conversation, we have support groups, but I feel as though this is a gap that needed filling.”

Dativah Nitsios opens the seminar and outlines the critical need for providing community based support structures for CALD women who suffer from mental health related ailments

Dativah Nitsios opens the seminar and outlines the critical need for providing community based support structures for CALD women who suffer from mental health related ailments

“What we have done here is to ask people themselves what they need, they’ve told us what they need. The people have told us they want somebody to talk to, yes there are hotlines you can call so you can talk to people, but that’s not good enough, we want to dig deep in the communities, and that’s why we want to start this conversation.”  

Women from CALD backgrounds don’t often seek assistance if they suffer from a mental health related condition, sometimes due to a lack of awareness about services, but often as a result of cultural and religiously associated stigma from within their communities.

Teresa, an African woman who went through a severe bout of depression told of her experience. “I can say I have gone through a mental health crisis, and I’ve been going through it for the last 3 years emanating from a car accident. At first it was hard to seek help, people were saying that according to Christian beliefs mental health issues meant some sort of demonic possession, and that you were not normal, so at first it was difficult and I tried to keep it to myself. But I remember my studies in nursing when I was at uni when we were taught about the signs and symptoms of mental health related issues, and the importance of seeking help, so that allowed me to speak up about my struggle.”

A participant provides some of her insights on mental health

A participant provides some of her insights on mental health

Chair of the Bipolar Australia Advisory Committee, Susana Bluwol emphasised the acceptance of the existence of mental health illnesses within CALD communities, and to view it as something that is not remarkable, but rather like any other ailment. “Nobody should be suffering in silence because they fear people don’t listen to them or help them.

“A mental condition takes part in our body, in our brain, it’s one of our organs, it’s no different to somebody with diabetes, or any other physical ailment, we don’t judge them so those with mental health conditions shouldn’t be judged either.”

The seminar left participants with a sense of optimism about bringing light to this issue among CALD communities. Rita, a Pastoral Care worker said “I think it’s marvelous to show people that it does exist, and not to pretend as though it’s not there by sweeping it under the carpet.”

Organisers wanted participants and the community to embrace the take home message of the seminar, that suffering from a mental health illness “can happen to anybody, if you are suffering, you need to speak about it, you need to seek help and you need to tell other people you are normal.”

Participants network and share their experiences

Participants network and share their experiences

The seminar was made possible by and run in partnership with African Women's Group, STARTTS, CORE, 9 Tribes Cosmetics, Vitenje and Psyched Solutions.