Department of Health

Culturally competent mental health care

Key messages

  • Cultural competence is the understanding and respect for other people’s beliefs.
  • It is important that staff practice cultural competence to further the person- and family-based case model.

Cultural competence relates to the attitudes, skills and behaviours of staff.

Culturally competent and effective staff are:

  • person centred and family centred
  • respectful and non-judgemental
  • curious about all cultures
  • able to seek cultural knowledge in an appropriate way
  • tolerant of ambiguity and able to deal with complexity
  • able to appropriately change their approach in response to different cultural situations.

In mental health settings, cultural competence also means understanding how people’s cultural and individual beliefs and values affect their perceptions and understanding of their mental illness, the nature of help-seeking behaviour and relationships with service providers.

Working in partnership with people and their carers

Trusting and respectful relationships that use person-centred and family-centred approaches underpin effective mental health care.

Like all people who access public mental health services, people from diverse and vulnerable population groups want to be understood as individuals rather than defined by their illness or by stereotypes of their group.

Family-centred practice is particularly important when working with people from diverse backgrounds. Many people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities have strong family and community ties, which are significant aids to recovery from mental illness.

A balance is required between the rights, independence and individual needs of a consumer and the involvement and role of family and carers.

Understanding the cultural context of consumers and their families is an essential component of cultural competence.

Reviewed 29 May 2015


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