“R U OK” Day 2017

PICACWA LASA Care & Ageing Expo: Aboriginal Aged Care facility & Community Hub
August 22, 2017
Living Culture at Fortis | An Interview with Intern Daniel Peckitt
October 11, 2017

R U OK? Day is a national day of action. Dedicated to inspiring people of all backgrounds and cultures to ask each other Are you OK? Encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones, protecting from suicide.

It is reported that 8 people die by suicide in Australia alone each day. For every death it is estimated 30 people will attempt to take their own life. In fact, each year, 1 in 5 of us will experience a mental illness. Think of how many people you know and divide by 5, that gives some indication of how this personally affects each every one of us and how prevalent mental illness is around us.

Mental Health problems effect people of all ages, social and cultural groups. Australia has an increasingly growing multi-cultural nation with 39.6% of the Australian population being born overseas according to the 2016 ABS. Those born outside of Australia accounted for 25.1% of all nationally recorded suicide deaths between 2001 and 2010. (6).

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “A person’s beliefs, norms, values and language effect how we perceive and experience mental health difference. Cultural differences can influence whether or not we seek help, what type of help we seek, what coping styles and supports we have and what treatments might work for us.”

Supporting people with different cultural needs is critical when discussing mental health with influencing factors such as:

  • Cultural Stigma: regardless of cultural background most people who have mental health problems do not get help. The reasons why complex, but one of the main reasons are is stigma. Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace. Cultural and ethnic stigma around mental health can impact people dramatically despite the overall prevalence of mental illness being the same across all people.
  • Cultural Isolation: people may feel a sense of isolation within their family, support networks and community. People from CALD backgrounds have a significantly lower level of access to mental health care and support in the wider community, due to stigma, language and cultural issues, resulting in much greater responsibility placed on family members without adequate culturally appropriate support or education. (7)
  • Language Barriers: CALD Australians are susceptible to missing out on mental health services due to language difficulties, different cultural understandings of mental health , unfamiliarity with Western health systems, and the overall lack of culturally competent health services. (8)(9)

An important note to end on is the issue of public and personal perceptions and acceptance. We can teach individuals about self-reflection, understanding and self-acceptance. But ultimately, more effort is needed among the general public, workforces and government bodies to accept mental health problems in order to prevent stigma and cultural stigma that blocks acceptance and the willingness to access support and help.
National research conducted by Multicultural Mental Health Australia (MMHA) into the use of mental health services by CALD communities highlighted that there is a need for community education to address the issue of stigma and mental illness – an ongoing issue for CALD communities. (10)

At Fortis, our agenda is focused on enabling CaLD communities to understand, access and gain appropriate support in relation to mental health issues by working with service providers to consider the cultural needs of communities and how to reach out to offer culturally appropriate support. We have already engaged in discussions with Western Australian Association in Mental Health and Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Centre to explore how we can support new and emerging communities and their connection and access to mental health services.

So today on R U OK Day we at Team Fortis call you to action! Regardless of your background or culture sit down and have a coffee, take a minute of your day to ask family, friends and colleagues: “Are you OK?”


1: Slade, T; Johnston, A.; Teesson, M.; Whiteford, H.; Burgess, P.; Pirkis, J.; Saw, S. (May 2009). “The Mental Health of Australians 2. Report on the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing”. Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra. 

2:“Facts and stats about suicide in Australia”. MindFrame National Media Initiative. HNE Health. Retrieved 24 July 2013

3: “SUICIDE IN AUSTRALIA”. Australian Bureau of Statistics. ABS. Retrieved 24 July 2013

4: “2012 RUOK? Day”. RUOK?. Retrieved 6 July 2013

5: Australia Bureau of Statistics Data 2016

6: http://www.mindframe-media.info/for-media/reporting-suicide/facts-and-stats

7: National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum Advocacy Brief

8: Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, FECCA’s Position – Briefs on Selected Issues (2013) 

9: Mental Health and Australia’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities, A submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, July 2011, The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA)

10: MMHA, The State of Play-Key MN Policy Implications for CALD Communities, 2010