3 May 2015

Promoting Chinese mental health

From One In Five, 7:06 pm on 3 May 2015

Dr Sai Woh Wong
Dr Sai Woh Wong

An Auckland psychiatrist is calling for a national epidemiological survey to find out why Chinese people living in New Zealand are under-represented in mental health statistics. 

Epidemiological studies look at the patterns and causes of conditions to inform decision making for public health and findings are used for preventive care.

Dr Sai Woh Wong has been working with the Chinese community in Auckland for almost 40 years and says there has never been funding available for a survey. “Without that you don’t know whether the under-representation is really because we are better or, because of shame, we rot out there in the community.”

He says the concept of shame prevents many Chinese people accessing mental health care. Dr Wong says feeling shameful can lead to anxiety and depression. “Shame is worse than feeling guilty. Shame is that you involve a lot more other people as well. You bring a lot of other people down with you. That’s shame. “

Dr Wong has spent his career working to improve the cultural competency of health practitioners and interpreters. He also works to enhance cross cultural understanding in patients and their families and has set up support groups for families.  .

He helped establish the Chinese Lifeline telephone counselling service, day programmes for elderly Chinese people, and a cultural liaison consultation service to the public sector.

In January this year Dr Wong was appointed Officer of the Order of New Zealand list for services to mental health and to the Chinese community.