Participatory digital stories on journeys of recovery

five_virtuesFinding our way: Stories of recovery from people with lived experience of mental ill-health from migrant and refugee background

Understandings of emotional distress and mental ill-health vary considerably across cultures and immigrants and refugees have their own needs and preferences when these issues arise. However, their varying perspectives are not widely understood or appreciated in the general community and among service providers.

There are very lively discussions underway among mainstream mental health service providers about ways to ensure that persons affected by mental ill-health are involved in directing their own care and treatment, often described as applying the principles of ‘recovery’. However, how these principles apply in the context of a culturally diverse society such as Australia is not well understood.

A recent consultation with mental health consumers and carers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds in Melbourne, identified that visual media (e.g. digital storytelling) are especially powerful and effective ways to engage directly with community members who prefer to speak languages other than English.

Recently, in partnership with the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and supported by Mental Health in Multicultural Australia, Erminia Colucci coordinated a project with Sue McDonough where ten people from migrant and refugee backgrounds learnt to create their own digital stories about living with emotional or mental health issues. Each person wrote, voiced, created and edited their film during a four-day workshop.

 The DVD was launched to coincide with  Harmony Day, watch the news  from SBS about it. 

The digital stories can be watched here, please share them as listening these stories presents an opportunity to gain greater insight and empathy towards people who are not only making a life in a new coun­try but facing mental health issues as well.   Their words and ideas are invaluable for everyone in the Australian community and beyond.

If additional funding were made available, the workshops will be also be facilitated in a rural/regional site within Victoria, with substantial local immigrant and refugee communities, and in other states and territories in Australia, as well as in other countries.


Levy-Fenner, E., Colucci, E. & McDonough, S. Lived Experiences of Mental Health Recovery in Persons of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Backgrounds within the Australian ContextJ. Psychosoc. Rehabil. Ment. Health (2022).

Colucci, Erminia and McDonough, Susan (2019) Recovering from mental illness and suicidal behaviour in a culturally diverse context: the use of digital storytelling in cross-cultural medical humanities and mental health. In: Film and the Chinese Medical Humanities. Lo, VivienneBerry, Chris and Liping, Guo, eds. Routledge Advances in Asia-Pacific Studies . Routledge, United Kingdom, pp. 205-225.

McDonough, Susan and Colucci, Erminia (2019) People of immigrant and refugee background sharing experiences of mental health recovery: reflections and recommendations on using digital storytelling. Visual Communication pp. 1-23

For more information  you may contact the project initiators and coordinators Erminia Colucci or Sue McDonough

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