Watch: Eva Chen talks about the wellbeing of new mums, teenagers, and community
Eva Chen is a mother to four children, and a passionate advocate for the wellbeing of Asian communities. She began her mental health advocacy work almost a decade ago after seeing the need for a culturally responsive service for Asian communities, resulting in the establishment of the Wellbeing Charitable Trust. She hopes to build a safer and fairer place for the next generation.
In this conversation, Eva speaks with fellow mental health advocate Mehwish Mughal (who has been leading our Asian Mental Health project) about relatable challenges in her advocacy, and her culturally sensitive approach to supporting our communities.
I remember, we had this very first Chinese parenting workshop, and one of the hosts was a young mum, looking after two kids, and she said at one stage she was even having that thought of using pillow to suffocate her baby because she couldn’t put up with the crying, and that’s why when we setup this Wellbeing Charitable Trust.
My name is Eva Chen. I was born and raised in Taiwan, came to New Zealand at the age of 17 as an international student.
My experience with this mental health started with, you know, back in 2008ish and we started to talk about a lot of parenting issues – and you can see there are anxieties.
A lot of mums wasn’t aware that they actually experienced some sort of post-natal depression.
Our goal about the wellbeing trust... Work together and see how do we use the existing information and resources that our government have for all the parents into some kind of culturally appropriate workshop and support to the parents. And that’s how everything started.
The first parenting workshop was working on the post-natal depression, but we try to avoid “post-natal depression”. We try to make it positive, like, this is a parenting workshop teaching you how to build a positive relationship with your newborn baby.
Then slowly the workshop gets deeper and deeper... because the group grows bigger and bigger, the parents, they trust us, they share more stories behind their parenting struggles... Then we found out they are more behind it.
It could be their childhood trauma. It could be our cultural restrictions. It could be the cultural conflicts between New Zealand and Asia.
So the more we work, the more we found out that we can do, so then, starting from post-natal depression, it slowly moved to family violence prevention.
Back then, there’s always English, there’s always the Western way of parenting and that also caused the post-natal depression.
I can’t say it’s the main reason, but all have some elements in there because we were struggling to ... as if our parenting or the way we brought up is wrong.
So that’s why we would try to deliver the message to the parents that all the parenting, good parenting, there’s no right or wrong, just have to have the safety, love, the understanding as the core value and nothing can go really wrong.
I would say the service back then would’ve been not culturally conscious enough.
We have lack of support from the mainstream communities so our community kind of see the gap and work together to fill the gap to support each other.
My focus is shifting as my kids grow. My daughters are teenagers, so it’s more about teenagers’ mental health. The teenager suicide. With my work, my organisation’s, within our reach to only partial of the Asian community. We lost one young life per month since February 2021 and that’s something that I think is pretty scary.
Imagine that ... I’ve been here as international student, I’ve been here as struggling new parent. I’ve been here as newcomers. And then I can’t imagine under what kind of stress this teenagers will decide to take their own life.
It is really sad to say that we don’t have resources there to help us. We’re so limited of the services that we can reach out to. I’m not saying that the mainstream doesn’t want us provide the support to us.
The mainstream is struggling themselves, too. The mainstreams also have lack of staff or professionals to support the teenagers.
But honestly, Asian parents, we are struggling and we are screaming for the support, especially the organisations who are working at the mental health sectors.
We’ve been screaming for years, but no one hear us. So it is frustrating and I don’t know how far this can go because apparently nothing is happening.
The small grassroot organisations or communities will learn to help each other to work together. With the limited resources, we just have to.