Migrants and Service Providers' Perspectives of Barriers to Accessing Mental Health Services in South Australia: A Case of African Migrants with a Refugee Background in South Australia

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Aug 24;18(17):8906. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18178906.


International mobility has increased steadily in recent times, bringing along a myriad of health, social and health system challenges to migrants themselves and the host nations. Mental health issues have been identified as a significant problem among migrants, with poor accessibility and underutilisation of the available mental health services (MHSs) repeatedly reported, including in Australia. Using a qualitative inquiry and one-on-one in-depth interviews, this study explored perspectives of African migrants and service providers on barriers to accessing MHSs among African migrants in South Australia. The data collection took place during the COVID-19 pandemic with lockdown and other measures to combat the pandemic restricting face to face meetings with potential participants. Online platforms including Zoom and/or WhatsApp video calls were used to interview 20 African migrants and 10 service providers. Participants were recruited from community groups and/or associations, and organisations providing services for migrants and/or refugees in South Australia using the snowball sampling technique. Thematic framework analysis was used to guide the data analysis. Key themes centred on personal factors (health literacy including knowledge and the understanding of the health system, and poor financial condition), structural factors related to difficulties in navigating the complexity of the health system and a lack of culturally aware service provision, sociocultural and religious factors, mental health stigma and discrimination. The findings provide an insight into the experiences of African migrants of service provision to them and offer suggestions on how to improve these migrants' mental health outcomes in Australia. Overcoming barriers to accessing mental health services would need a wide range of strategies including education on mental health, recognising variations in cultures for effective service provision, and addressing mental health stigma and discrimination which strongly deter service access by these migrants. These strategies will facilitate help-seeking behaviours as well as effective provision of culturally safe MHSs and improvement in access to MHSs among African migrants.

Keywords: African migrants; Australia; barriers; mental health problems; mental healthcare services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Pandemics
  • Qualitative Research
  • Refugees*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • South Australia
  • Transients and Migrants*