COVID-19: Pasifika wellbeing support

Access culturally relevant support from those who’ve been there.

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. Pasifika peer support and mental health services can help.

(Health Navigator NZ and Te Whatu Ora | Health New Zealand, Waitematā, 2022)
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View transcript in Cook Islands Māori 
View transcript in Niuean
View transcript in Tokelauan

Pasifika in Aotearoa

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: Health Navigator NZ

How COVID-19 affected Pacific communities

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. Read more about how COVID-19 affected Pasifika and how they responded.

We provide information and resources relating to a range of things that might be affecting you during the pandemic. Click on these links to read more about:

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.

Mental health support and resources

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 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 provides help with serious mental health problems in Auckland.

Penina Health Trust provides mental health, addiction, and housing services in South Auckland.

Mental wealth 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 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 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.

COVID-19 information for Pacific peoples

Health advice on COVID-19 translated into different languages including all the Pacific languages

Support and information for Pacific Peoples Unite Against COVID-19, NZ

The Ministry for Pacific Peoples provides COVID-19 information on RAT tests and COVID vaccines in Pacific languages.

COVID-19 support for Pacific businesses Ministry for Pacific Peoples, NZ

Support for individuals and families Ministry for Pacific Peoples, NZ

Let's talanoa – helping our youth navigate COVID-19 conversations (video) Ministry for Pacific Peoples, NZ
 

Other services

Tupe wise 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 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 Hearts and Minds, NZ

A list of Pasifika Health Providers Health Navigator, NZ 

Pacific Homecare 09 274 9153