The Southland Times

Asians seek wellness support

- Lucy Xia

A charity providing mental health support for Asian Kiwis says their needs are not being properly addressed by the Government.

‘‘Currently, the Ministry of Health has no policy for Asian mental health, which means no strategy,’’ Asian Family Services (AFS) national director Kelly Feng said.

A report from the chief coroner showed Asian suicide rates increased from 5.09 to 7.91 per 100,000 people in the year to June 20, 2020.

A 2019 report on understand­ing suicide in the Asian population said government mental health policies for Asian and refugee communitie­s are under-developed.

Feng said the Government needs to ‘‘look at how [it wants] to respond to this population at a national level’’.

AFS received a short-term grant to help support Asians through Covid-19, but that ended in February.

The grant went towards running a helpline for Asians experienci­ng distress due to the pandemic.

Feng said there needs to be more sustainabl­e government funding to address mental health issues among Asians.

‘‘Many [Asian people] don’t know the New Zealand health system . . . even if they know how to access [it], there is a lack of culturally appropriat­e services,’’ she said.

The high proportion of Asians working in internatio­nal business and tourism – some of the sectors hardest-hit by Covid-19 – also meant many suffered financial difficulty which in turn impacted mental health, she said. Distress caused by discrimina­tion and domestic violence was also more marked during Covid-19.

Counties Manukau District Health Board member Paul Young agreed the Ministry of Health needs to invest more in mental health services for Asian Kiwis.

‘‘I hope we can strengthen mental health support for Asian people, through education and awareness, more resources, and more research,’’ he said. ‘‘The DHB mental health services need to find out the needs [of Asians], not just give translatio­n services.’’

Young said community organisati­ons providing mental health support to ethnic communitie­s should also be prioritise­d. The ministry said in a statement it

received $15 million in Covid-19 response funding to address mental health and wellbeing.

It did not respond to a question about whether there are any funding boosts planned to address the mental health needs of Asian Kiwis.

The ministry also did not say whether there are any reviews of Asian mental health planned. The last time a review was commission­ed by the ministry on this topic was 2002/03.

 ??  ?? Paul Young
Paul Young

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