19 Sep 2022

Breaking the stigma - South Asians and mental health 

From Voices, 5:00 am on 19 September 2022

As New Zealand marks Mental Health Awareness Week, we talk to South Asian health advocates about the gaps and challenges they see in the community.

Silhouette of sad girl behind frosted glass. (Photo by IGOR STEVANOVIC / SCIENCE PHOTO / IST / Science Photo Library via AFP)


The stigma toward people with mental illnesses in New Zealand is a huge cause for concern.

98.7% of Asians believe the public holds negative stereotypes against people with mental illnesses, while 47.9% of Asians cannot access language and/or cultural support regularly when they use health services.

Fiji-born Shirleen Prasad is a counsellor at Asian Family Services - an NGO service provider for Asians who have been affected by mental health issues and gambling harm.

Also joining us on the podcast is Jennifer Janif, an Auckland-based and Fii-born community development advocate.

Shirleen and Jennifer speak on Voices about the several challenges specifically South Asians face when it comes to dealing with mental health and reaching out for help - including stigma, language and cultural barriers. 

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Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Asian Family Services: 0800 862 342 Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm or text 832 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm. Languages spoken: Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi and English.

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116