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New multimedia segment for Pasifika on mental health

Thursday 30 September 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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New multimedia segment for Pasifika on mental health
Psychiatrist Dr Siale Foliake Photo: RNZ

A new mental health segment led by Pacific organisations has launched online and on air this week to address mental health concerns in the Pasifika community.

The programme is called Ngalu Fānifo, which is a Tongan metaphor meaning 'when life gets difficult and stormy seas get rough, we need support to ride those waves and gently make it back to shore'.

Pasifika Medical Association through Pasifika Futures - the Whānau Ora agency for Pacific families - have partnered with the Pacific Media Network to deliver the weekly half hour segment on Radio 531pi.

The segment was launched as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Ngalu Fānifo aims to normalise conversations around mental health and well-being by hearing from Pacific psychologists, psychiatrists and clinical specialists.

Pacific psychiatrist Dr Siale Foliaki said the segment hopes to make information and advice around mental health more accessible to Pasifika people.

"There's a wealth of research that says that for the Pacific community in particular, accessing mental health services is particularly problematic.

And so for whatever reasons, it's harder for a Pacific person to get the care that they need if there's a significant mental health issue and the other side of that same coin is that often people present in the primary care with stress related illness," he said.

Dr Foliaki said by explaining stress related illness on the Ngalu Fānifo segment will hopefully help Pacific people articulate what they're going through when they seek medical help.

"There are times when we are stressed, you get an increase in things like a migraine, high blood pressure, gastric ulcers, abdominal pain a lot of those physical morbidities are often are associated with unresolved stress going on, and sometimes associated with high levels of anxiety and depression.

Pacific people going into the primary care setting and those questions are not even asked of them," he said.

Dr Seu said the team of Pacific mental health professionals will offer advice, management techniques and cues to look out for to see if someone needs additional help.


Psychiatry registrar Dr Chris Seu Photo: Pasifika Futures Limited

"That includes day to day stresses that we're having and frustrations that our families are feeling, anxiety and worries that we may have, ways that we can manage and deal with that, how can we approach the hard conversations that we need to have with our families."

Dr Seu said by having this segment available on air as well as online via Radio 531PI's Facebook page, it increases the reach to the Pasifika community learning more about their mental health and well-being.

"The saying goes that there's no health without our mental health, so if you make it a priority alongside our physical health is going to push our community forward in terms of our overall health and well-being," he said.

Mr Sagala said it's a much needed topic for the Pasifika community.

"I think it's a great initiative to enable our Pasifika to open up and to talk about mental health in a safe space and it's great that we're going to have professionals to be able to open up the space more."

Mr Sagala encourages the Pasifika audience to engage with the conversations during the segment to get the most out of the medical professionals.

"It's going to be streamed online through our Facebook page, so we'll take questions online, but if people call through I'll put them through as well."


Radio 531PI host Brian Sagala. Photo: 531pi

The mental health segment will be 20 to 30 minutes long and aims to connect with the Pacific community more intimately as a means of understanding their needs.