Building Mental Health and Social Connection: Empowering Mandarin-Speaking Women in Melbourne’s East
The It Takes a Village program was designed to strengthen mental health supports and social connection for Mandarin-speaking women who are parents or carers and living in the Eastern region of Melbourne. The program aimed to centre the voices of women who are parents, and to develop a shared understanding of mental health and wellbeing. In addition, the program also sought to contribute to the evidence-base for gender responsive and culturally safe mental health promotion. The program was funded by the Victoria government and was delivered through a series of online and in-person sessions that ran from April to May 2022.
The program reached 93 participants, and the pre-session survey highlighted several areas of need, such as parenting skills, mental health impacts of COVID-19, physical exercise (many of the women reported they had neglected their physical exercise), social health, and mental wellbeing (a small number of the participants reported that they engaged in daily mindfulness and wellbeing activities).
The content of this program explored how social determinants impact the mental and emotional health of migrant mothers, and how these stressors and emotions can affect their children’s development and health. We also introduced self-care strategies and facilitated discussions on how these strategies can help to build mental health and emotional self-awareness.
The post-session survey feedback showed high satisfaction rates among participants (100% overall satisfied), with respondents reporting an increase in their understanding of mental health and emotional awareness. Additionally, participants reported an increase in their knowledge about child development states and their emotional development. As an in-language program, the culturally appropriate way to run these sessions proved to be very beneficial for the participants. The survey results also showed promising attitude and behaviour changes among participants, with many trying breathing exercise and grounding techniques after the session (73% of participants reported having tried these techniques).
The program’s impact was noteworthy, with a dramatic increase in mental health and self-care awareness among participants. The survey results also identified further areas of interest among the local Chinese community, such as emotional management, parents’ mental state and parenting qualities, parenting programs, and how to raise the next generation in Australia. The success of the program highlights the importance of in-language mental health literacy building programs delivered by trusted bicultural workers and the need to develop gender-responsive and culturally safe mental health promotion practices.
To provide additional support for the mental health needs of Chinese migrant women and mothers, WHE will focus on implementing medium to long-term mental health and wellbeing programs and engagement activities that continue to build individual and community capacity for wellbeing. By doing so positive health outcomes can be achieved for parents and their children and the broader community in the future.
By Jane Brierty, WHE Bicultural Worker