Clinic improves access to mental health support for Sydney’s Muslim community
Sydney’s Muslim community is benefiting from a partnership set-up to deliver free multi-lingual mental health services.
Sydney Local Health District has collaborated with the Lebanese Muslim Association to establish and fund the community-based AMAN Health, which runs a Psych Support Clinic at Lakemba.
“There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental health and accessing support services. It’s particularly taboo among some in culturally and linguistically diverse communities,” one of the clinic’s psychologists, Carawan Ghanem, said.
“We want to break down those barriers, raise awareness about the importance of mental health and improve access to support services for people in our community.”
At the clinic, two psychologists assess and treat patients for a range of mental health issues including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They conduct up to 20 sessions each week.
Data compiled during the clinic’s first year of operation, reveals that 68.5 per cent of patients had not sought mental health treatment in the past 12-months, despite experiencing psychological distress.
“Most of our patients (82 per cent) have a GP. But, fewer than half of our patients (46 per cent) have discussed their mental health concerns with their GP.
“So, for almost 70 per cent of our patients, when they make an appointment at the clinic, it’s the first time they have sought help in 12 months. We want to work towards closing that gap,” Ms Ghanem said.
The culturally and religiously-sensitive service began in February last year and is available to people over 16 years of age. Therapy is offered in English, Arabic and Bengali. No GP referral is needed, nor is a Medicare card.
Eligible patients are provided with an individual treatment plan and regular progress assessments are made. Patients may also be referred to other existing services.
The psychologists have also conducted workshops about stress management, mindfulness and run a carer’s therapy group.
The District has contributed more than $500,000 to fund the Psych Support Clinic over two years.
The District has also provided more than $450 000 over two years to fund a neighbouring Quit Smoking Clinic, which began operating three days a week in April this year.
Data from the NSW Cancer Institute shows there’s a much higher prevalence of smoking (39.3 per cent) among Arabic-speaking men when compared to the rest of the general population in NSW, tobacco treatment specialist Khaled Kamalmaz said.
“There’s a lot of misinformation in the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) community about smoking and, in some cases, denial that it can cause cancer,” he said.
“We raise awareness by providing health education about the consequences of smoking and benefits of quitting,” he said.
Since the clinic began, Mr Kamalmaz has conducted about 100 sessions.
“There’s been a positive response from clients. Many of them have reduced the number of cigarettes they smoke each day. I offer on-going support to help manage nicotine cravings and talk about the approaches clients can take to quit,” Mr Kamalmaz said.
The free service is available to people over 18 years of age. Counselling is offered in English and Arabic. No GP referral is needed, nor is a Medicare card.
Clients can access free nicotine replacement therapy including gum, inhalators, lozenges and patches.
The District’s chief executive Dr Teresa Anderson AM said the two clinics highlight the benefits of forming partnerships with community-based organisations to deliver services.
“Our partnership with the Lebanese Muslim Association is an innovative approach to the delivery of health care. We are working together to raise awareness about key health issues and to improve access to services for our CALD communities,” Dr Anderson said.