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Korean community representatives welcome the SuMRC report

PRESS RELEASE – “Korean community representatives welcome the SuMRC report on Asian suicides in Aotearoa New Zealand and calls on the Government to act”

Asian suicide in Aotearoa New Zealand is on the rise and so is the silently growing epidemic of mental health issues in the Asian population1.

After the failure of He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health Addiction2 to reflect the realities of Asian mental health and suicide issues in Aotearoa New Zealand and to include the Asian communities’ voices, as healthcare workers, community organisers and mental health advocates who live and work in Aotearoa New Zealand and are members of the local Korean community, we welcome the Report from the Suicide Mortality Review Committee (SuMRC), titled Understanding deaths by suicide in the Asian population of Aotearoa New Zealand: Te whakamārama i ngā mate whakamomori i te taupori Ahia i Aotearoa3.

As our country prepares to undergo a major transformation of how it delivers services to meet the growing demands and to inequities in mental health and addiction issues in our communities, we urge the government to take the opportunity to develop targeted policies and adaptive services to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate care that is efficient and effective for the growing Asian population in Aotearoa New Zealand.

We strongly support the emphasis on a multi-layered, cross-sector, whole-of-government, community-engaged, and strength-based approach this Report is advocating for. As a coalition of Korean community groups, we support the recommendation to classify “‘Asian’ mental health and social indicators into more specific ethnic groups – at least Chinese, Indian and Korean - to identify emerging risk groups and appropriate interventions”. We also call on the Ministry of Health to honour its duty to “make services culturally appropriate, effective and safe; reduce inequities as required by the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000; and set standards of clinical competence and cultural competence as required under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003” as outlined in the Report, in parallel to its ongoing commitment honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi and the health inequities faced by Māori as tangata whenua.

We believe that the two-pronged approach of equipping, developing, and supporting the mainstream service as well as establishing culturally and linguistically appropriate services – such as “a one-stop shop for mental health needs, combining social worker and counsellor roles” – is needed within the health sector. Furthermore, whole-of-government involvement is critical for addressing social determinants of wellbeing. In particular, Work and Income New Zealand, Oranga Tamariki, Police, Justice, Immigration and Education services need to be involved alongside our community in ongoing discussion and collaboration in order to improve Korean community mental health and wellbeing. Addressing racism and hate speech at all levels of our society is also important for the wellbeing of all ethnic minority communities.

It should be noted that there are already a number of grass-roots, community-based organisations working hard to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health, addiction, and suicide issues within Korean communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Augmentation of these efforts through appropriate resourcing and coordination will enhance their effectiveness and encourage the emergence of innovative solutions to the evolving and growing issue of suicide as well as improving wellbeing within our community.

As Professor Rob Kydd, the Chair of SuMRC, has eloquently articulated in the Report, “building a health and social system that is compassionate, connected and equitable will mean that communities are resourced, no one is left alone, and help is there when and where it is needed. … It is our collective responsibility, across all social, justice and health agencies, to act now on what we know and fill the gaps in what we don’t know. We cannot wait any longer.”

As a coalition of Korean community groups in Aotearoa New Zealand, we acknowledge that the SuMRC report has broken new ground by recognising the tragic issue of suicide within the Asian communities, including our own. The urgency of this issue is a call to action. Although this is only the first step of the long road ahead, “A thousand-mile journey begins with a single step” (Korean Proverb).

This Press release was prepared and released jointly by:
Korean Community Wellness Society Inc.
Korean Medical Students Association
Sae Woom Tor Charitable Trust
The Korean Society of Auckland Inc. (N.Z.)

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