Pasifika wellbeing and support

Accessing culturally relevant support

Key points about Pasifika wellbeing and support

My strength does not come from me alone, but from many – Samoan proverb.

  • When you’re sick, you need support from people who get you.
  • There are Pasifika peer support and mental health services who can help.
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(Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ and Te Whatu Ora | Health New Zealand, Waitematā, 2022)
View descriptive transcript in English
View transcript in Cook Islands Māori
View transcript in Niuean
View transcript in Tokelauan

Pasifika are a diverse population made up of ethnicities and cultures from many different Pacific Islands. The 8 main Pacific ethnic groups in Aotearoa make up 8% of the total population and include Samoan, Cook Islands Māori, Tongan, Niuean, Fijian, Tokelauan, Tuvaluan and Kiribati. It's important to acknowledge that, even though Pacific peoples are described as a group in this article, there's much cultural variation. Also, although people of Pacific Island origin are known by a number of collectives terms, some of which have been coined by the New Zealand government, the term Pasifika has been mainly used throughout this topic. 

Two-thirds of Pasifika in New Zealand live in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland). 

Image credit: Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ

COVID-19 affected many aspects of life for Pasifika. The mental and physical health of many people was already strained before COVID-19 arrived in the country. The pandemic added to existing problems by providing stress from:

  • job and income loss
  • problems with housing
  • fear of infection
  • education challenges
  • the costs of accessing technology for information and healthcare support. 

During the pandemic, many Pasifika have felt unable to access the healthcare they needed or to get support for their mental health concerns. These problems have all put extra stress on the Pacific community. 

COVID restrictions made it more difficult to gather for funerals, adding to the grief experienced. Many people all around New Zealand have had to miss important events and mourn the loss of their loved ones in different ways. 

Why COVID-19 hit Pacific communities so hard

The main reasons relate to COVID-19 being easily spread in situations where Pasifika people live, work and connect. This is despite most of the Pacific population being double vaccinated by February 2022.

How have Pasifika responded?

Pasifika communities rallied to care for each other by:

  • maintaining stronger community connections, bonds of trust and religious identity (Christian) than New Zealanders as a whole
  • coming together to support each other, with community groups, churches, and other local agencies helping those who were struggling. 

Some of the problems experienced in providing support were that some Pasifika families didn't want to ask for help due to a concern that others needed it more. Some also didn't know where to go to get help. 

However, COVID-19 has affected you or those you know, it's important to know that there is help available if you need it. It's OK to accept help so you can feed and clothe your family and support your mental health at this challenging time.

0800 OLA LELEI (0800 652 535) is a free, confidential national Pacific helpline staffed by trained Pacific mental health and social workers ready to support Pacific families. It provides a safe space to talk if anyone is feeling stressed or overwhelmed. 

  • The service runs Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.00pm.
  • The languages offered are Cook Islands Māori, Samoan, Tongan and English. 

Ola Fiafia(external link)(external link) is a group of mental health support services around New Zealand focused on strengthening the resilience and wellbeing of Pacific peoples. Call free on 0800 652 342.

Lotofale Pacific Mental Health Services(external link)(external link) provides help with serious mental health problems in Auckland.

Penina Health Trust(external link)(external link) provides mental health, addiction, and housing services in South Auckland.

Mental wealth(external link)(external link) Le Va provides support and services in mental health and addiction, disability, public health, suicide prevention and education, in sport, and with churches.

Pacific mental health non-clinical support(external link)(external link) Vaka Tautua is an Auckland based service to support Pacific peoples who are experiencing mild to moderate mental illness to get well, stay well and integrate successfully back into the community. The service involves individual and group support, brief interventions, and information on how to access community resources and services.

Aiga Fiafia(external link)(external link) runs a variety of social services and programmes with the aim of helping to grow strong and resilient Pacific aiga, in this generation and the next.

Health advice on COVID-19(external link)(external link) translated into different languages including all the Pacific languages
Support and information for Pacific Peoples(external link)(external link) Unite Against COVID-19, NZ
The Ministry for Pacific Peoples(external link)(external link) provides COVID-19 information on RAT tests and COVID vaccines in Pacific languages.
COVID-19 support for Pacific businesses(external link)(external link) Ministry for Pacific Peoples, NZ
Support for individuals and families(external link)(external link) Ministry for Pacific Peoples, NZ
Let's talanoa – helping our youth navigate COVID-19 conversations (video)(external link)(external link) Ministry for Pacific Peoples, NZ

Tupe wise(external link)(external link) is a service designed to build Pacific peoples’ financial knowledge, skills and confidence so they are ready and able to move towards financial independence and home ownership. Tupe Wise involves workshops, one-on-one coaching and offers assistance to access wider support services. It's available in Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Otago. Call free on 0800 825 282
Matua Ola Manuia(external link)(external link) offers a selection of programmes and services for matua (older people). This service supports matua to stay connected with their communities and live healthy, active, and safe lives. Call free on 0800 628 826.
A directory of support services for Pacific peoples(external link)(external link) Hearts and Minds, NZ
A list of Pasifika Health Providers Healthify He Puna Waiora, NZ
Pacific Homecare (external link)(external link)09 274 9153

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Credits: Healthify editorial team. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

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