My Ability Care launched its new initiative called The Mindset Project on Monday 13 December 2021 at The Connection Precinct in Rhodes, Sydney gathering prominent people within and outside of the community to help support this new initiative.

The launch had a line up of some great speakers discussing what mental health meant to them and what can we do to see changes for the better. Guest speakers were author, writers and women’s advocate Amani Haydar, Paralympian Jamie Richards, and youth advocate Anhaar Kareem.

Spending nearly a decade and a half working across different fields, as a Psychologist, I have seen so many presenting issues that exists within specific cultural communities. Whilst there is abundant of services available, some of these people still lacked ability in accessing them.

So, it made wonder why? I am not going to discuss statistics, we know the statistics and it is depressing, we know the problem, we have talked about the problem, and we have created campaigns against these significant issues, yet the call to action is very slow. 

Our time is running out because the World Health Organisation has predicted that by the year 2030 the major cause of illness around the world will be depression and anxiety, particularly amongst the youth. So, what are we going to do about it?

We know that specific cultures have particular beliefs when it comes to mental health. There are significant number of taboos, stigmas, stereotypes and barriers that prevent CALD communities from accessing services.

We don’t have enough CALD education to help mainstream organisations in helping those affected by mental health. I have spent the last decade and a half trying to break those barriers and I tell you what – it is extremely difficult.

It is difficult trying to make families understand how and why their child is being affected by their trauma’s. It is difficult to treat a client around female genital mutilation when their culture dictates otherwise.

It is also difficult to make a parent understand why their child is now addicted to ice because of the physical abuse that occurred within the household and to make people understand that these taboos and stigmas affect people in a way that they may never be able to understand.

Mental health is a subject we all, whoever we are, still instinctively avoid. At home, in the workplace and in our communities, it tends to be brushed under the carpet. And we all fear the unknown.

Today in 2022, far too many in this country still feel as if they have to pretend they have something else wrong with them when they are struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma and suicide.

People pretend they are OK, family and friends turn a blind eye and nothing happens until it is often too late. A change of culture has happened with illnesses that have previously been taboo, from cancer to aids and to other sexually transmitted diseases. But it hasn’t happened as much as it needs to with mental health.

Many years ago, I met a young man at an event that was held for promoting education and awareness around drug and alcohol. This young man described his journey to me.

About 10 years ago, his wife died of cancer and his marriage broke down soon after. He was made redundant from his job and therefore was no longer able to provide for his family. The embarrassment and community stigma prevented him from talking about this to anyone.

He couldn’t sleep because of the stress, the trauma, the loss of his wife, anxiety, depression and financial hardship and he did not know what to do. As he was walking home one day, someone he knew walked past and said he could provide something to help him sleep. This something was called heroin.

Having experienced some use of drugs in the past, he became addicted to drugs and soon was deemed homeless. After living 10 years on the street addicted to drugs, he was able to seek some assistance but not from his own community because drugs was still considered taboo and men from good families don’t do drugs.

I asked him what had happened.

And he stated that if we lived in a culture where the trauma of bereavement and the need to get help for mental health problems were more clearly recognised, things could have been very different for him. Now, lets think what the outcome would have been for him if he wasn’t too embarrassed to seek services or the stigmas in his community did not exist?

Unfortunately, this is the reality of a lot of people today.

The Mindset Project is a grassroots initiative by My Ability Care that aims to smash taboos, alter perceptions, and create much needed dialogues about mental health especially within the cald community. We want to be at the forefront of developing a community that approaches mental health challenges with understanding, love and empathy.

So, what makes the mindset project different?

The Mindset Project brings a cutting-edge, innovative approach to tackling challenging issues in a way that demystifies them, smashes taboos and catalyses the difficult but necessary journey towards transformative change.

In a digital era, we want to create resources that help raise awareness and education. We want to shift conversations inside the home that is more pertinent to mental health where people feel comfortable to discuss these challenging issues rather than being shamed for it.

The resources created will help people engage in conversations and discusses topics that they would normally not discuss with the hope that it will help break barriers to mental health.

The take home message from the event is that:

We all have a part to play in society in helping each other and those that are in dire need. Our responsibilities don’t finish at this event. We should reflect on what changes we can bring about within ourselves and inside our households to help break those barriers. Change starts from within and then it is disseminated across to other people and communities.

Change is inevitable, it will happen but we shouldn’t have to wait decades to teach our communities about the importance of mental health and actions to help combat those stereotypes that prevent us from moving forward.