The need for a Refugee Mental Health Project arose from a concern that although a high percentage of refugee and humanitarian entrants have been identified as experiencing the effects of physical and psychological violence, many do not have adequate access to appropriate mental health care services. There are a number of barriers to care, including:
- Long waiting lists and limited capacity to provide long-term psychotherapy in the public mental health system
- Costs associated with the use of private mental health services
- Shortage of clinicians with cross-cultural expertise and experience
- Limited time to offer the regular and longer appointments necessary for psychotherapy in a cross cultural context
- Limited capacity to respond to the particular mental health needs of people from refugee backgrounds
- Difficulties of access and equity including understanding of the Australian health care system, transport and language services
- Different cultural beliefs and understanding of clients regarding mental health care
The Refugee Mental Health Project commenced in October 2001, in partnership with the Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit (VTPU).
The project was funded by the Victorian Department of Human Services (DHS) until June 2004 with additional support from ANZ Trustees Strategic Impact Program.
The project established a Clinic at VFST’s Parkville and Dandenong offices, with psychiatrists providing a service to refugees and asylum seekers on a sessional basis.
A network of psychiatrists was also established to provide services from private practices.
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