Mental health study drives focus on Vietnamese community support

20 July 2023
A diverse group of 20 people group together in front of a projector screen.
CQU researchers and community members at the Mental Health Literacy and Inclusion workshop in July 2023

A new report by CQUniversity has shed light on the challenges faced by members of the Vietnamese community in Victoria in seeking help for mental health and interconnected legal issues.

The research, funded by Victoria’s Department of Health, explores accessible and culturally-appropriate web application development to improve mental health literacy and mental health law awareness in the Vietnamese community, and ensure access to information about mental health and legal services. 

CQUniversity School of Business and Law academics Dr Jacob Deem, Associate Professor Huong Le, Dr Victoria Lambropoulos and Dr Luke Price collaborated with Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association (AVWA) frontline staff and clients with experience in mental health challenges.

Victoria’s Mental Health Legal Centre and law startup Legal Tech Helper also supported the project, which published a preliminary research report Empowering Vietnamese Victorians through Online Guided Pathways in July 2023. 

Researchers from CQUniversity fluent in Vietnamese led the interviews, and identified several key themes. 

These included unwillingness to be seen to be seeking help or having a problem, and where help was sought, a lack of awareness of, or low availability of, appropriate services.

“The research highlights the urgent need to address cultural stigma and enhance mental health literacy within the Vietnamese community,” Dr Le said. 

“By promoting open discussions about mental health, community members can better recognise when they or someone they know might be in need of support.”

The research group, presented the study at an AVWA workshop on Mental Health Literacy and Inclusion, attended by community leaders, local specialist service providers, and representatives from federal and local government. 

Dr Price said that a web-based innovative guided pathway on the AVWA website could meet the Vietnamese community’s needs for trust and confidentiality when seeking help for mental health challenges. 

“By offering a safe and confidential environment, individuals may feel more comfortable seeking help without fear of judgement or reputational damage,” he said.

The project received $117,206 funding from the Victorian Department of Health to research mental health literacy in the Vietnamese community and develop the web application. Dr Lambropoulos said the findings also offer opportunities to extend the project. 

“The interview process alone identified the need for more information and resources to help Vietnamese Victorians with challenges such as gambling addiction, alcohol and other addictions, debt and financial problems, crime (particularly drug-related crime and fraud), and family violence,” she said.

“Our focus on the mental health priority area is based on leveraging existing support services to their fullest as a means of helping the greatest number of people as soon as possible.

Dr Deem said that the project highlights the importance of a collaborative approach between academic researchers, government and community organisations:

“Early intervention and support are crucial to breaking down barriers, and with collaborative efforts between mental health organisations, community leaders, and government agencies, positive changes can be made to support the mental well-being of this diverse community.”