Recommendations relating to Cultural, Faith and/or Spiritual Practices and Communities

Cultural, faith or spiritual practices provide a source of community and connectedness for many people. Unfortunately, some people affected by complex mental health issues have experienced stigma and discrimination in such groups or communities, due to a lack of awareness or erroneous beliefs about their mental health needs. Educating all communities to be empathetic and inclusive will ensure people affected by complex mental health issues can enjoy full participation.

Survey participants who responded to the section of the survey specific to this domain reported that they had been unfairly treated by members of their cultural, faith and spiritual communities and ‘othered’. They shared experiences of being denied support by community members, including people in positions of power such as priests and pastors, only to be met with criticism about their ‘lack of faith’, ‘weak character’, or being coerced to undergo interventions like exorcism.


"Mental illness is seen as a symptom of lack of faith and/or demonic possession. Tired of people trying to cast demons out of me and also seeing my sexual orientation as a symptom of mental illness."     

– Our Turn to Speak participant, Australian Capital Territory


Culture, spiritual beliefs and practices, and religion can facilitate social support and belonging, structure and ritual, existential meaning, guidance on ethics and morality, reflective practice, identity development, and more. They can also be important contributors to mental health generally, and personal recovery in the context of living with complex mental health issues. It is critical that people affected by complex mental health issues can participate in the cultural, faith or spiritual practices and communities that are important to them, without fear of stigma and discrimination. This requires building capacity among members of this community to improve their understanding of complex mental health issues.


Recommendation for action 

Work with cultural and faith leaders to increase their understanding of how complex mental health issues impact people and to develop appropriate mental health literacy resources for their communities.