New Zealand / Covid 19

Asians reluctant to seek help for mental health reach out during pandemic

16:48 pm on 30 May 2020

A charity providing mental health support to Asians says a government grant will help it meet the surging demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic but a long-term strategy is needed.

Asian women experiencing family violence are among those needing help, a counselling charity says. [file pic] Photo: 123RF

Asian Family Services offers free and confidential face-to-face or phone support nationwide in English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and Hindi.

It said the number of calls in April has increased by 25.6 percent compared with last year, and the duration of calls has risen by 146.5 percent.

Deputy director Ivan Yeo said it was concerning to see more diverse family distress, mental health and social needs of their clients and issues around race-related bullying and discrimination in schools and workplaces.

He said the organisation has been receiving a higher number of cases involving immigrant Asian women experiencing family violence.

"These clients are in a particularly dangerous situation because they have limited knowledge of the New Zealand system and have nowhere to escape physical, emotional and financial abuse even after they have sought support from the police and health services."

The group was also helping international students worrying about study and their family members in another country, new parents unsure how to protect their infants from the virus, as well as people with gambling and addiction issues.

Yeo said Asian communities had low use of mental health services due to cultural and resettlement reasons historically, and the rapid increase in the number of people reaching out for help in recent months indicated significant gaps and unmet needs.

"We are especially concerned about the long-term mental health impact of the crisis, which can persist long after the most immediate threat of the virus is over."

Kelly Feng Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

The charity's national director Kelly Feng said she was appreciative of a six-month grant from the Ministry of Health which allows them to expand services but more can be done.

"The last census data shows that Asian population has grown significantly, but there isn't enough or culturally and linguistically appropriate social services equivalent to other mainstream providers," she said, adding that her organisation was one of the very few services available in the country.

"It's good to have some extra help to meet the demand. For the future, it would be good to have a long-term and more sustainable plan for Asians with mental health and addiction needs and social services regarding other matters as well - so it's a phone call away that you can get help."

Feng said there was a need for raising awareness of mental well-being and how to get help among the Asian communities and reduce the stigma and discrimination often attached with mental health issues.

"We encourage people to reach out to services for support and not to isolate themselves if they experience any mental health and addiction issues."

How to get help from Asian Family Services:

  • Ph 0800 862 342 from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Friday.
  • For more information visit, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and WeChat, where resources are shared daily in different languages.

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