News & Publications

04 Jul 16

Cultural and Linguistic Characteristics of People Using Mental Health

Cultural and Linguistic Characteristics of People Using Mental Health Services and Prescription Medications, 2011

released 3/6/2011

he whole Australian population is culturally and linguistically diverse with characteristics varying amongst the population. People may face language and cultural barriers when accessing mental health care [1]. Cultural beliefs about what constitutes mental illness and how to respond to it can affect how people explain symptoms, seek help, and access health services [2].

This publication is the fourth in a series of analyses based on data from the 2011 Mental Health Services-Census Integrated Dataset. It explores cultural and linguistic characteristics of people using Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) subsidised mental health-related services and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) subsidised mental health-related medications in 2011, building upon previous releases from the Integrated Dataset. These are:

MBS subsidised mental health-related services are those provided by psychiatrists, general practitioners (GPs), clinical psychologists, other psychologists and other allied health professionals. PBS subsidised mental health-related medications comprise antipsychotics, anxiolytics/hypnotics and sedatives, antidepressants, and psychostimulants, agents used for ADHD and nootropics. See Appendix 1 and Appendix 2 respectively for more detail about mental health-related services and medications listed on the MBS and PBS.

The 2011 Census of Population and Housing asked several questions to provide a picture of Australia’s cultural and linguistic diversity [3]. For the purpose of analyses in this publication, the Australian population has been divided into four groups based on country of birth and language spoken at home:

  • Born in Australia, speaks English at home
  • Born in Australia, speaks a language other than English at home
  • Born overseas, speaks English at home
  • Born overseas, speaks a language other than English at home

In the Integrated Dataset, the Census of Population and Housing provides insight into a range of socio-demographic characteristics including age, sex, remoteness, socio-economic disadvantage, household income, labour force status, educational attainment and others.


There are a number of factors that should be considered when interpreting information presented in this publication.

While the MBS items included in analysis include a range of subsidised mental health-related services provided in Australia, consultations with some medical practitioners such as paediatricians were not captured in the Mental Health Services-Census Integrated Dataset, even if they were related to mental health. Consultations with GPs that may have involved discussion of mental health issues but were not recorded as mental health-related services were also not captured.

For certain countries, the Australian Government’s Reciprocal Health Care Agreement (RHCA) allows visitors to access MBS and PBS subsidised services and medications. Australia currently has RHCAs with the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Malta, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Belgium and Slovenia. Overseas-born people living in Australia who are not eligible for MBS or PBS subsidised services or medications are not in scope of the Mental Health Services-Census Integrated Dataset, but are included in Census counts on which rates of use of MBS or PBS subsidised services or medications are based [4].

A person's use of mental health-related services or medications does not imply a diagnosis of a mental health condition. For information on people who reported having a mental or behavioural condition in Australia in 2014-15 (4.0 million people) see National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15 (cat. no. 4364.0.55.001).


1 Department of Health and Ageing, November 2009, Review of the Multicultural Mental Health Australia (MMHA) Project, viewed 30 May 2016,

2 Mental Health in Multicultural Australia (MHiMA), 2014, Framework for Mental Health in Multicultural Australia: Towards culturally inclusive service delivery, viewed 30 May 2016, <>

3 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012, Cultural Diversity in Australia, Reflecting a Nation: Stories from the 2011 Census, 2012-2013, cat. no. 2071.0, viewed 30 May 2016, <>

4 Department of Human Services, 2016, Health care for visitors to Australia, viewed 30 May 2016, <>

original article


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