After World War II many thousands of people (mostly European) migrated to Australia, mainly to Victoria. Initially, the majority found work in factories or farms as unskilled or semiskilled labour – even educated migrants had to settle for a manual job. Community groups, churches,
welfare agencies, newspapers and schools gradually developed within many communities due to large numbers, and eventually, the population of Melbourne constituted for many communities, one of the largest migrant settlements in the world outside of the countries of origin of these migrants.
People from migrant and non-English speaking backgrounds can be more vulnerable than the rest of the population in many areas of their life, including mental health, diagnosis of illness and prognosis/treatments and management.
Mental illness is a complex and sensitive issue, making it difficult to identify all factors associated with an increased risk. There are a number of possible risk factors, all of which are cross-cultural. However, some factors including social isolation, dependency on children, cultural factors, lack of information about rights and stress/conflict within the family, are of particular concern for older people from non-English
Lack of English language skills, cultural influences, loss and grief, the aging process, various illnesses and medications and smaller family networks can mean that an older person is more vulnerable to mental distress where it occurs, and that they are less likely to identify illness or seek support.
Many elderly people have migrated from non-English speaking countries where the cultural worldview is collectivist. This needs to be understood in relation to how mental illness is perceived within their particular communities. In collectivist cultures, individuals tend to put the goals of the family before their own personal aspirations. The principle of ‘what’s best for the common good’ is more likely to be applied than the individualistic view of ‘what’s in it for me’. In collective cultures people are less likely to move between groups than in individualistic cultures.
Older people from collectivist cultures may not highly value or subscribe to the concept of individual rights and personal choices. They may also be less likely to consider action that separates them from their family. What's your experience?