Waiting for your visa? Keep your mental health in check
As thousands of NZ migrants wait for their residence applications to be processed, it’s not only their patience that’s wearing thin – their mental health is being tested too.
According to 2019 research published in The Lancet Global Health Journal, immigrants to high-income countries like New Zealand are facing health issues due to temporary visa status and limited access to welfare. Plus, the feeling of isolation that migrants experience because of language and cultural barriers can lead to poor mental health – including psychological distress, depression, and anxiety.
A well-known issue
When the findings were presented, back in 2019, Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson couldn’t but acknowledge the hurdles that temporary-visa migrants face on their path to a settled life in New Zealand.
“We do know the process of migration can be hugely stressful and taxing and this would have a large impact on anyone’s mental health,” Robinson said. “We also know that migrant communities are less likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems despite them being more at risk, which often means they won’t receive the support they need.”
An example for all: 2004 research investigated the mental health status of Asian immigrants in New Zealand. It found that language barriers, separation from family and community, failure to find employment, and traumatic experiences prior to migration contributed to increased risks of minor mental health disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression). Also, the cultural stigma around mental health meant Asian immigrants used mental health services much less often than other ethnic groups.
The solution? Greater inclusion and increased mental health literacy, experts say. But as researchers pointed out, there’s still a lot of work to be done globally, especially in a world of rising hostility towards immigrants and populist anger among the public.
Feeling the pressure? Read on for some mental health tips.
Where to get help
Struggling to cope with visa uncertainty? Remember, you’re not alone in this. Poor mental health can affect anyone at any time across the lifespan, and we know all too well that migrating to a new country is a deeply emotional journey.
If you feel you need support, the Mental Health Foundation’s website is a good place to start. You’ll find many handy tips and resources, as well as real-life stories of people from all walks of life.
Looking for help on the go? The following apps are designed to tackle feelings of anxiety, stress, depression and general mental health:
- Breathe2Relax (free): for guided breathing techniques and information;
- Headspace (free trial, paid subscription for full content): for guided meditation and tracking;
- Just a Thought (free): behavioural therapy programme with action plans;
- Melon (free): health and wellness app with a Covid-19-specific programme;
- Mentemia (free): New Zealand’s latest mental wellbeing app;
- MindShift (free): for self-help tools and anxiety tracking;
- Smiling Mind (free): for guided meditation and mindfulness;
- Clearhead (free): chatbot designed by NZ doctors for mental health support;
- Thelowdown (free): a helpline and interactive website for young people, with self-tests and fact sheets.
And finally, don’t underestimate the power of an open, meaningful conversation. Talk to someone in your circle of friends, cultural community or even a professional for expert support. It’s perfectly natural to feel under the weather now and again, especially with all that’s going on within and around you. Letting those feelings out can really help you turn things around.
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