Language barriers in mental health care: A survey of primary care practitioners

Brisset, C.; Leanza, Y.; Rosenberg, E.; Vissandjée, B.; Kirmayer, L.; J Muckle, G.; Xenocostas, S.; Laforce, H. (2013)

Journal of immigrant and minority health

16(6) | 1236-1248

Many migrants do not speak the official language of their host country. This linguistic gap has been found to be an important contributor to disparities in access to services and health outcomes. This study examined primary care mental health practitioners’ experiences with linguistic diversity. 113 practitioners in Montreal completed a self-report survey assessing their experiences working with allophones. About 40 % of practitioners frequently encountered difficulties working in mental health with allophone clients. Few resources were available, and calling on an interpreter was the most common practice. Interpreters were expected to play many roles, which went beyond basic language translation. There is a clear need for training of practitioners on how to work with different types of interpreters. Training should highlight the benefits and limitations of the different roles that interpreters can play in health care delivery and the differences in communication dynamics with each role.