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Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Personal story:

Titan Debirioun

Titan is a 21‑year‑old recording artist who moved to Australia from Sudan in 2004.

He is part of a group that designs and co‑designs music programs in his neighbourhood of Tarneit, in the west of Melbourne. Young people can ‘drop in’ to the program, which runs for four hours per week, be with their friends and learn how to make music. Titan said the music can help the young people talk about their emotions.

A lot of the kids start making musical tracks where it’s like ‘I’m this, I’m that’, focussing on surface level things, which is cool. But then after a while they start breaking that down and talking about everything else that’s happening in their life. It becomes like a form of meditation—they get all their emotion out that they don’t usually get out or they don’t want to talk about.

Titan also works with Foundation House, a service that supports people from refugee backgrounds who have experienced torture or other traumatic events. He helps the South Sudanese community connect with mental health services.

Foundation House wanted me to talk about how they could access the community better, how the program could serve the community better and how they could improve their services. I was able to see all the services that I never knew were available. I felt like there were services I might have used, or people in my neighbourhood, but we didn’t know about it.

Titan’s work with Foundation House involves acting as a bridge between organisations and his community. He talks to people about issues and services, runs workshops and talks to Foundation House about how it can better reach the community. Titan reflected that while his community is using services more, there is a way to go.

The people they’re really trying to reach have a distrust of services that’s hard to break down—that takes time and we’ve been working on it for a while now. Building trust in communities has a lot to do with educating people about services, and not just about service[s], about mental health in general.

So when young people go through things, the older generation is the one who is supposed to assist them and that’s not happening because they don’t know about mental health or they feel embarrassed about it or that it’s something taboo.

Services need to be reaching the kids that are at home saying ‘I’m never going to talk to another person about my emotions’, ‘I’m never going to talk to this organisation’ or ‘white people don’t understand me’ because a lot of people feel like that.

Titan also works with the Centre for Multicultural Youth with young people and students from other migrant backgrounds. He is part of the Shout Out program, where he talks to organisations about how cultural and diversity training can help their workplace be more inclusive and culturally responsive. Titian spoke of the importance of supporting the mental health of the migrant community:

I’m glad the Royal Commission is taking migrant mental health seriously and is starting to realise that there are holes and gaps. I think it is essential to start dealing with those holes and gaps because at the end of the day their future is Australia’s future as well, so it’s important to invest as much as you can to make sure they have equal ground mentally, physically, socially, economically—and the right to prepare themselves for what they want in the future and who they want to become.

Source: Witness Statement of Titan Debirioun, 19 June 2020.