According to the New Zealand Asian Mental Health & Wellbeing Report 2020, at least 43.9% of Asians have experienced some form of mental health distress since the 25 March lockdown. Nervousness and anxiety were the most widely experienced signs of distress (57%) (Asian Family Services, 2020).
Asians primarily seek help from close friends (44.1%), family members (42.6%), and their family doctor/GP (28.3%). A small proportion (14%) do not seek any support at all. When patterns are compared with national statistics (e.g., doctor - 69% and other health professionals - 48%), Asians are less likely to seek help from doctors and other health professionals/organisations. Because of this, more educational campaigns about professional mental health services are needed.
At Asian Family Services we hope to see the trends reversed so more Asians are willing to seek help from health and social professionals. We encourage individuals to reach out and get help. To assist with this, we have developed several resources along with some self-care tips.
The 2018 Census showed that 27.4 per cent of people counted were not born in New Zealand. The growth in the overseas-born population coincides with higher migration over the last five years, especially by young adults coming to study or work in New Zealand.
At AFS, we witness many Asian migrants experiencing different degrees of health or social issues. The Tree Model was developed to reflect the journey of migration. The constructs used in the Tree Model illustrate how we can nourish our mental, social, family health and social connectedness.
The Tree Model illustrates how a firmly grounded tree can lose its parts during transplantation and how much it takes to adjust to the different climate of its new ground. When one moves to a new country, one might lose the social connection with one’s local communities. It is likened to the experience that an Asian migrant goes through during the immigration process. The roots represent culture, values, beliefs, identity and family, including extended family. The trunk represents status and self-esteem. The branches represent language ability and education. The leaves represent achievements, social network, and friends. The fruits represent health. The Asian Family Services' team uses the Tree Model to help Asian communities understand their experiences, develop empathy for themselves and those who are going through a similar
process, and encouraging them to grow stronger roots in the new ground that produces healthy fruit.
Research has shown that social support wards off the effects of stress on depression, anxiety, and other health problems. Social support provides important benefits to our physical and emotional health. Stress may be related to a number of health concerns, from mental health problems to chronic health problems like heart disease and migraines. When dealing with a stressful situation, people are less likely to report stress-related health problems when they feel like they have support from others.
Asking for help is something that everyone struggles with. However, so many of us assume that others are not willing to help. We fear we will be rejected. Or we figure that even if others are willing to help, no one will have the time or ability. Do you worry that asking for help is a sign of weakness? A common belief is that competent people do not ask for help. Most people are, in fact, willing and able to help — if you ask. The reality is that asking for help does not indicate anything about us; it simply means we need help in a specific situation at a specific time. It is not a reflection of our character, intelligence, competence, or desirability. It is actually a sign of strength and wisdom to seek out help when you need it.
You are not alone
So, remember, you are not alone. Reach out and get professional support and guidance knowing that it is okay to receive help from services. It is also okay to ask for help in your own language as there are services available in most Asian languages. The support you receive will contribute to your overall mental and social wellbeing and help achieve family harmony.
Pregnant women and new mothers
Pregnancy is a time of great joy and expectation for most women and their families. It is also a time of great change, so it can be a stressful time too. Following the declaration of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, we understand that some pregnant women and new mothers may (or may not) feel a great sense of anxiety, as they may have lower immunity and worry about their own health and that of their unborn or new-born baby.
Your doctors, midwives and other health workers care about you and your baby. We understand that some of you might feel worried. So, caring for yourself, your emotional and physical health, is what is most important. Take the opportunity to rest, eat well and maintain your interests and hobbies, where possible. By taking good care of yourself, your baby has the best protection it will ever have.
It is important to take care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy and after delivery.
• Rest – sleep when the baby sleeps, even just a few minutes several times a day as it all helps.
• Eat a healthy diet to help you to recover, especially a variety of foods that give you the nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good, and have energy. These nutrients include protein, carbohydrates, healthy fat, water, vitamins, and minerals.
• Practice mindfulness even just for a few minutes, as it can help to create a moment of relaxation.
• Many migrants might not be able to receive the same level of support as they would have back in their home country. This can lead to a sense of isolation. Fortunately, many agencies and services can provide support or connect new mothers to a social group that suits them.
"Take care of yourself so that you can take care of your children. It's about going easy on ourselves – recognising that nobody can overnight turn into a perfect stay-at-home employee, preschool teacher, care coordinator, systems navigator, and parent" – Dr Rahill Briggs (National Director of Zero to Three's Health Steps Program) The Brain Architects: Self-care isn't selfish.
According to the older people's health data and statistics (Ministry of Health, 2018), New Zealanders are living longer, and many of the later years are lived with a disability. In general, older people use more health services than younger people. Loneliness has a strong relationship with poor wellbeing and physical health outcomes. Here are some things you might like to consider along with other things you may think of:
• Create a daily structure (and also be flexible) as much as possible including sleep, meals, and activities.
• Speak to loved ones and people you trust every day or as much as possible, using the telephone, video-calls, or messaging. Use this time to share your feelings and to do common hobbies together.
• Reduce long periods of sitting and set up a daily routine that includes at least 30 minutes of exercise. Make sure to do activities that are safe and appropriate for your level of physical fitness or alternatively you can use household chores as a way to keep physically active. You may like to follow an online class (e.g. Tai Chi, yoga).
• If you are living alone and with a disability, you might consider a personal medical alarm and monitor such as the St John medical alarm (click here).
People with a long-term health condition
Long-term conditions or long-term health condition (LTCs) can be defined as an ongoing, long term or recurring condition that can have a significant impact on people's lives. Many people suffer from several LTCs. Related terms for LTCs are 'non-communicable diseases' and 'chronic conditions'. LTCs include conditions such as diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, mental illness, chronic pain, chronic kidney disease and dementia.
Social support plays a critical role in coping with the condition. Do not isolate yourself because of your health condition. People who have strong social support networks tend to do better long-term.
There is an increasing body of evidence that social support and other aspects of social wellbeing are almost as important in how a person manages their disease as other aspects of their medical care.
The situation facing people who live with a long-term health condition will vary from person to person. However, despite this, you can still live a meaningful and fulfilling life.
If you have an underlying health condition, make sure you have access to any medication that you are currently using. Activate your social contacts to provide you with assistance, if needed. Please make sure they (family) know your needs and have a plan.
This refers not only to religion but spiritual practice or ideology, such as meaning, purpose and connection, something greater than ourselves. It is very diverse and often an individualised aspect to health. It can be achieved by:
• Connecting to self, others, and the environment around us
• Engaging with spiritual or religious practices
• Finding and maintaining purpose and meaning.
Take time, take steps, and take care
• Take steps to recognise and manage stress (stress can show up as psychosomatic symptoms, such as sore neck/ upper back/ shoulders to some; it could be insomnia). Stress is a normal part of life, but when it gets out of control or lasts too long, it can lead to mental health problems.
• Self-care can help us heal. When we do something that makes us feel good healthily and constructively, it can improve our mindset. Taking care of ourselves is one thing we have control over, and we can feel confident we're doing our best to take care of ourselves.
• During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
• Take time for activities that give you pleasure to renew your energy. It can be gardening, walking your dog, reading a book, a small and easily achievable action.
• Have a structured but flexible daily routine, such as exercising regularly, keeping a regular sleep pattern, and eating healthy food. It is important to remember to go easy on yourself and allow some flexibility too.
• Incorporate activities that help balance something pleasurable with something that gives a sense of achievement. These things can be a little project like fixing up a chair, putting together a shelf, cleaning out the closet, etc.
• Try and use helpful coping strategies such as ensuring sufficient rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food.
• If you feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, or that stress is affecting how you function every day consider connecting with a mental health professional. Whether it's a social worker, pastoral counsellor, marriage and family therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other trained professional, getting connected to a professional is the first step to feeling better.
Reach out, be patient, and it is okay not to be okay.
• Reach out and connect to family and friends. Having contact with support networks is really important – and you can keep in touch with people using free apps such as WeChat, WhatsApp, KaKaoTalk, Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and more. Virtual connections are still connections, and even a quick text or seeing someone's face on a screen can improve your wellbeing.
• Be patient with each other - this has been an unprecedented time, and individuals react to situations differently. Some people might need more time to adjust to the change.
• Remember you are doing your best as a husband, wife, parent, and friend. You will get frustrated and stressed – this does not mean you are a bad person. It is okay to take some time for yourself.
Get in touch with your local community
Stay connected and maintain your social networks. If you are new to New Zealand, you can look for local activities that interest you, such as joining the local basketball team, going to language classes, or volunteering with a local organisation. There are many local groups for you to explore so check your local council website and get involved in a social group community garden, volunteering as alert levels allow. When you find people, who like the same things you do, you have got an almost immediate support network, and they have expanded theirs too.
Health and social support services
A wide range of health and social services support New Zealanders every day. Services are focused on individuals, families, and communities, and are delivered by a range of government agencies, non-government organisations, communities and, occasionally, business. No matter who provides the service, it is designed to make a difference in the areas that New Zealanders care about.
There are different ways to access New Zealand's healthcare services, depending on what sort of help you need. If it is not a medical emergency, you should arrange to see a general practitioner (GP). A GP is a fully trained medical doctor who can give you medical advice and refer you for further tests or specialist treatment if needed.
Help with healthcare costs - If you are eligible, you can get free or subsidised health, maternity, and disability services in New Zealand.
New Zealand offers a wide range of services to help the elderly in New Zealand. Services include home care, financial support, social support, rest homes and retirement villages.
Information about services in the community to help with alcohol or drug problems for yourself or someone you care about are available through Healthpoint (click here).
Remember, many of the health services provide interpreter services for free. Talk to your health provider if you need interpretation services.
You can also call Healthline free on 0800 611 116 for health advice and information (click here)
Confidentiality and privacy
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Asians who are reluctant to seek early help and support were afraid that information would be shared through Immigration New Zealand, which might result in their permanent residency being denied in the future. However, this is not the case; the health services provided in New Zealand are bound by privacy and confidentiality. Individual information is kept private unless the person provides consent to share their health information with other services.
Support groups for Asians
• ActivAsian - ActivAsian aims to engage the growing Asian community to be more active in sport and recreation with a range of programmes that target different age groups and cater for all abilities (click here).
• Harbour Sport (ActivAsian) - Harbour Sport is a regional sports trust that's all about promoting and sharing expertise with sport organisations, clubs, coaches and teachers (click here).
• Independent Living Charitable Trust (Asian Information and Advisory Service) - Independent information and advice is provided to those with disabilities, their families, whānau, aiga, caregivers and providers and the general public (click here).
• Age Concern (Asian Services) - Our Asian Service ensures that all our services and activities are delivered in both Mandarin and Cantonese and that we provide culturally and linguistically appropriate support (click here).
• Korean Positive Ageing Charitable Trust (KPACT). This Trust is made up of volunteers from the Korean community in response to the needs of older Korean people (click here).
• Chinese Positive Ageing Charitable Trust Telephone Befriending Service (CPATBS) aims to assist Chinese elderly to combat their loneliness and maintain their mental wellbeing. Their specially trained volunteers can speak your language and will phone you regularly at your convenience to listen to your concerns, provide culturally appropriate support and a friendly chat with confidentiality (click here).
• Shanti Niwas - Providing culturally appropriate social support services to Indian and South Asian senior citizens (click here).
Pregnant women or new mothers
• Plunket (only in English click here)
Alternatively, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau and ask for help (click here)
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