The Indian crescent society of Australia (ICSOA) organised a community health education seminar on mental health awareness during the COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday 18 October 2020 in Sydney.

The online event was attended by large numbers of Australians from a diverse background, including representatives and office bearers of various community organisations.

Mr Abbas Raza Alvi, President of ICSOA, welcomed everyone with a formal acknowledgement of traditional owners of the land and provided a brief update of the ICSOA activities, mission and future goals.

Mr Fasihuddin Khan, secretary of ICSOA, explained that the objective and purpose of ICSOA is to integrate and have a collective voice for Indian Muslims in Australia, representing them on Indian platforms in Australia as well as contribute towards the welfare of Muslims in India.

Dr Habib Bhurawala, ICSOA health co-ordinator briefed on the activities of ICSOA health subcommittee. Dr Bhurawala introduced members of ICSOA Health Committee to the audience such as Dr Abdul Ahad Khan, Dr Zakir Akhunji, Dr Shakeel Abbas, Dr Zainab Ali and Dr Soliman Qurashi.

Dr Bhurawala mentioned the partnership of ICSOA with Australian MEFF Consortium and Australian Red Cross blood service with regular blood donation awareness drive during the annual Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair during the last three years except for this year due to COVID.

He also provided details of various other health awareness seminars in the past, such as prevention of obesity, heart disease and identification and management of developmental delay in children. ICSOA Health Committee has planned several health seminars on various other topics in future, using online platforms as well as health information/promotion articles for media channels by ICSOA members.

Dr Bhurawala highlighted the burden of mental health illnesses and its effect on physical health, emotional health and family relationships. He emphasised the importance of appropriate prevention and health education programs in reducing the impact of mental health and introduced Dr Raiz Ismail, the keynote speaker at the health education seminar, who spoke on the topic “What everyone should know about mental health.”

The keynote speaker, Dr Raiz Ismail is a consultant psychiatrist at Nepean Hospital in Sydney and also in private practice. He has extensively trained and worked in India, UK and Australia. He has a special interest in mental health problems in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community.

Dr Ismail explained common mental health conditions, when to seek help and emphasised the need to see a family doctor (GP) ensure physical and mental health screening undertaken early to avoid more severe untreated mental health illness.

He also clarified common misconceptions and myths about the mental health conditions in the community, especially in CALD communities. He clarified that not all mental health conditions require medications. Medications available for treatment are highly researched, not addictive and work well with a focus on holistic care with the help of psychologists and GPs.

Dr Raiz Ismail encouraged the audience to be aware of various risk factors for mental health conditions and seek appropriate medical/psychologist help when signs or symptoms suggestive of a mental health problem.

He provided an overview of various treatment modalities available for mental health conditions, including psychology support, medication and various support organisations such as Headspace and Beyond Blue.

The talk was followed by an interactive question-answer session moderated by Dr Ahad khan. This session generated much interest from the audience.

Mr Fasihuddin Khan announced future programs of ICSOA which will be organised in the next 1-2 months. The seminar program concluded with a vote of thanks by Dr Habib Bhurawala.