Watch: ‘How can we work with the things that are already happening?’: Asian mental health and the future

Several key people working in the Asian mental health space in Aotearoa New Zealand – many of them featured in our Asian Mental Health video series – look to the future and consider: where to from here?



It’s fortunate for us that we’re kind of not starting from zero. Lots of people have been advocating for Asian health for decades now that are still out there working for different communities and for Asian health as a whole, and I think really acknowledging the work that they’ve done as foundational to the work that we can do moving forward is important.


We need to look at cultural identity not as a single or one dimension. We need to look at it from multiple dimensions, and we need to look at the intersectionality of cultural identity.


I think the biggest change that needs to happen in mental health services for people of Asian ethnicity is we need to be thinking about the different context.

When we start to talk about the context and we start to talk about what different identities when you put them together, what does that mean for people?

It means that we’re moving towards the right direction. It means that we’re moving away from blaming the person to how do we make that change.


Another recommendation is funding, you know? A lot of what’s going on in terms of the activism, the advocacy work, in terms of asking for effective mental health services, is grassroot.

But if government is serious about providing services for in 20 years, a quarter of its population, then they need to provide the funds to do that. It has to be ongoing education for mental health practitioners.

So what basically I’m talking about first of all is training programs need to be culturally responsive.

Now, that doesn’t mean to say it’s going to be one or two courses on culture. It means that cultural competencies needs to be infused into the entire curriculum.


Ways of improving health and mental health... I think a lot of the time exist outside of the health care system, so making sure that people have enough money to live, a safe and secure place to live, a social network in which they can kind of enjoy their lives are all things that kind of exist outside of health care, but make the biggest difference to people’s wellbeing.

So I think that from a government level, it shouldn’t just be the Ministry of Health, or the health care system but the entire social sector and beyond working in a way that protects and promotes wellbeing.


We need to kind of move away from why are people of Asian ethnicity not engaging to what can we do to make this more integrative? How can we work with the things that are already happening?

The mosque, the gurudwara, the temples, their extended families, and combine them together, right?

So instead of saying, ‘Let’s figure out something new and let’s make it work’, we need to be saying ‘What are already strengths that exist in the community and how can we keep reinforcing them?’ ‘How can we keep funding these things to make change?’


Reviewing what accessibility looks like... Is it that we have the service, or is it that we have a service we know they can access? They can access emotionally, physically, you know, financially. Access isn’t just, ‘Well, we’ve hired an Asian person.’


The burden cannot continue to be put on individuals or small NGOs and small minority groups who work tirelessly within an oppressive system to exist, to be seen, and to be heard.

There’s opportunity for more safe spaces to be created.

And when I talk about safe spaces, I think about spaces that prioritise indigenous knowledge and ways of being and de-centre Western, Eurocentric, Pākehā ways of seeing and being in the world.

Our healing is collective. Like, we may be each these little islands, and we have waters that surround us. Yet beneath the surface of the water, we are all one. I love the thought and the consideration that my liberation is bound in yours.