Authors: Shehani De Silva, Stephanie Shavin, Anna Browne & Dominic Hwang
Event: 2023 The MHS conference - Adelaide
Subject: Embedding cultural responsiveness in a mental health service, addressing human rights through equity of access
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Whilst access to good mental health is a ‘human right’, the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System confirmed that diverse communities experience many barriers to good mental health and wellbeing. These include discrimination and stigma related to both mental illness, as well as their diverse backgrounds, identities and attributes. The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System also found that people from diverse communities are often at greater risk of mental health challenges, and may have trouble navigating and accessing inclusive, responsive and culturally safe services.
Over two decades Victorian Transcultural Mental Health (VTMH - a state-wide transcultural service) has been developing and refining a Partnership Framework to support service development intended to embed cultural responsiveness within mental health services and community health organisations. The VTMH Partnership Framework (VPF) guides collaborations between VTMH and service providers. This framework includes provision for developing sustainability plans that support the agency to consolidate and extend the gains made. The VTMH Partnership Framework was initially designed in 2010 and aligns with the Victorian Government’s (2009) Cultural Responsiveness Framework:
The VPF serves two main functions:
• It invites organisational representatives – leaders, quality managers, educators and others – to appraise their agency’s cultural responsiveness, and develop an organisational plan.
• It informs the development of a partnership agreement with VTMH and sets out the range of services and activities VTMH will provide over time.
Better Health Network (BHN) and VTMH commenced a partnership through VTMH’s Partner’s in Diversity Program in 2020 with the aim of developing and implementing organisation-wide cultural responsiveness strategies to improve outcomes for culturally diverse individuals, families and communities. Through the partnership BHN sought to build an internal culture of, and have a shared understanding, of culturally responsive practice.
BHN has implemented a number of changes and initiatives as part of the partnership with VTMH. Training in cultural responsiveness and working with interpreters has been made available to staff working in the Mental Health program. VTMH also supported the mental health program to redesign the BHN initial assessment documents to move away from the dominant Western lens and incorporate diverse understandings of mental health and wellbeing. These changes were made in collaboration with staff and consumers. To ensure sustainability, BHN and VTMH commenced a Train the trainer program in 2022. Thirteen staff members are meeting monthly to develop knowledge and skills in facilitating cultural responsiveness training to make this available across the whole organisation.
In the workshop, participants will draw on the case example provided by the partnership between VTMH and BHN to:
- experience the importance of whole of organisation approaches to cultural responsiveness for this to be embedded in practice
- understand the co-design process that lead to successful outcomes of this partnership
- understand the importance of VTMH’s partnership enabling factors in shaping the success of the partnership
- be introduced to the knowledge required to embed cultural responsiveness at a whole of organisational level
- reflect on their own cultural values and beliefs and their organisations’ models in delivering recovery focused interventions, human rights, and the manner in which we provide respectful person-centred care
- learn some of the practices required to embed cultural responsiveness at an organisational level
- utilise VTMH’s framework to consider how they might apply this to their own organisations
- reflect on and discuss some of the key challenges and realities when seeking to embed cultural responsiveness within services
The workshop will be structured in the following format:
- An introduction to VTMH’s Partners in Diversity program and the importance of whole of organisation approaches to cultural responsiveness (15min)
- Collaborative activity in which participants identify actions that would be relevant to their organisations under the 4 partnership framework domains (15mins)
- A panel discussion presenting the BHN VTMH partnership, providing an example of the actions BHN undertook to engage a whole of organisation response to embedding cultural responsiveness (15min)
- Individual reflection using a template from VTMH’s framework to consider actions that would be relevant and useful for their own organisations (10min for activity and 10min for feeding back as a large group)
- Facilitated discussion of the key challenges and realities when seeking to embed cultural responsiveness within services (10min)
- Concluding embodied activity to support participants to reflect on their own cultural identity, values and beliefs and how these intersect with their practice (15min)
- To support practitioners to practice from a position of cultural responsiveness this must be embedded within organisational systems and structures.
- Culturally responsive organisational capacity building initiatives are imperative to ensure equitable access and service response for diverse communities.
De Silva, S. & McDonough, S. (2020). Partners in diversity: A transcultural and community mental health collaboration to build organisational cultural responsiveness. Fitzroy, VIC: Victorian Transcultural Mental Health.
Kirmayer, L. (2012). Rethinking cultural competence Transcultural Psychiatry. 49, 149. DOI: 10.1177/1363461512444673