East Asia: Mental health problems have social roots

Aware of the intertwined nature of mental health and social marginalisation, Jesuit Social Services, a Melbourne-based social centre of the Australian Province, was one of a large number of concerned institutions that responded to a government inquiry on mental health. 

JSS submission and recommendations focused on three problem areas corresponding to three specific groups: services to young people whose mental health problems are related to substance misuse; over- representation of mental illness in the national prison population, and thirdly, the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health services for the Vietnamese migrant population. JSS has very specific knowledge in each of these areas, acquired through its involvement in different activities. These include the 27-year old Brosnan Centre Programme that assists young people to reintegrate into the community after release from a correctional institution; the Connexions programme for young people with mental health problems related to substance abuse; and the Vietnamese Welfare Resource Centre, located in a public housing estate, which provides assistance to Vietnamese communities in Melbourne’s inner north and west regions. JSS is the passionate promoter of a holistic approach to these issues, aimed at forming relationships and working with the people through an array of activities, ranging from counselling, assertive outreach, case management and education and housing assistance. 

Interestingly, the Japanese province has, on the same lines, identified mental distress as one of the main priorities of the Social Apostolate (together with Foreign workers and Global marginalisation). It has recently created an ad-hoc commission to identify possible courses of action and research and welcomes comments and suggestions from anyone interested.