Recovering From Mental Illness: A Non-Linear Process

Recovery is an individual process. It is unique to each individual. Treatments will vary from person to person, even if individuals have the same disorder. This is because physiological responses differ. While there are standard medication and treatment options, these will be tailored to cater to each individual’s needs. Recovery is not a linear process. Some people recover quickly, while others take time.

Recovery may mean different things to different people too. For some, it is about managing symptoms, while for others it is about eradicating all symptoms and returning to full health.

What Does Recovery Look Like for Minorities?

Recovery is not always straight-forward. While there are milestones, it is not always a linear process. One of the biggest issues in recovery is whether a person belongs to a community that stigmatises mental illness. If this is the case, help-seeking behaviours will be compromised.

We live in a multi-cultural society. While decades ago, standard treatments may have been used to help all people, nowadays this is not the case. Vietnamese communities, for instance, may not seek out help and hold the belief that the community will support the wellbeing of the individual. Other cultures may also stigmatise and shame those that have mental illness, thus people actively avoid speaking out. In Australia, for instance, the aboriginal community still faces stigma around mental illness.

There is still stigma that looks at indigenous populations as prone to joblessness and alcoholism. These wider views make it difficult for indigenous populations to seek help, and it has also affected them because they are less likely to be employed. Cultural associations and prejudice can cause great harm to minority groups. It impacts on their help-seeking behaviours, because they may feel misunderstood. There is also the fact that indigenous populations have their own communication styles, beliefs and values. If practitioners are not trained in cultural safety, then they may inadvertently offend indigenous people.

Research into Ethnic Groups Accessing Services

There have been some studies into ethnic and indigenous populations accessing care. These have brought about great reform and changes. Services acknowledge the need for cultural understanding and awareness and to train their staff in cultural safety. The movie, Rabbit Proof Fence, highlighted the generational stigmatising of aboriginals that led to the stolen generation. This has caused great distress to the indigenous population of Australia and practitioners need to be aware of that. A Eurocentric or western style of healthcare is not always fitting to indigenous or ethnic people, so the workforce also needs to reflect the community more. There is a greater need for CALD professionals because of this.

It is important for practitioners to avoid a one-size fits all model for conceptualising mental illness. Training in mental health has often focused on a western perspective, but many cultures conceptualise illness differently. For some, mental illness is spiritual and dealt with by community spiritual leaders. Practitioners need to acknowledge the unique and diverse ways minority groups conceptualise their health. The person-centred approach is best for acknowledging the values and beliefs of each individual.

Acknowledgement Of Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.