ChangeMakers Resettlement Forum

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Strengthening community through volunteering

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It was an honour to speak to the Wellington Ahmadiyya Womens Group recently along with two professionals who work in the Mental Health space.

Mental health continues to be a topic that is stigmatised and not well understood by many around the world, including people both born in New Zealand and those arriving in New Zealand as both refugees and migrants. It is often a considered a culturally inappropriate topic, which in essence means that mental health can not be nurtured the way physical health is.

My topic at the event, was ‘what is mental health’, which also encourages comment on ‘what mental health is not’. It was such a great opportunity to work alongside members of a community, connecting with their experience as migrants and former refugees, to portray the reality of mental health as a very normal part of psychological and emotional well-being which operates along a continuum rather than as mental illness. An analogy of physical health along a continuum, and how we tend to look after our physical health, created a clear connection to the importance of looking after mental health; Te Whare Tapa Wha proved an excellent visual tool for showing the interconnectedness of all aspects of health. The topics that followed and were presented by mental health professionals, built on what had been shared: ‘ways to look after your mental health’ and ‘experiences of challenges in the New Zealand cultural context for newcomers or minorities’.

The Ahmadiyya Women’s Group, like several other new Kiwi groups, is super active and has leaders volunteering precious time to support their community. This is despite their not having been in New Zealand for a long period of time themselves, and some only having arrived in the past 12 months. In fact, the current Badminton that ChangeMakers is supporting was instigated by two youth members of the community who have been in New Zealand for about a year…and the badminton group now has people from the Sri Lankan Tamil community participating. Overall the group actively presents opportunities for their community members to come together, share their journeys, learn about key points of focus such as mental health, offer advice, be creative, and be active.

Congratulations to the Ahmadiyya Women’s Group on your wonderful mental health event, and thank you for your contribution to society.

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