Unravelling threads: introducing our Asian Mental Health project

Unravelling threads: introducing our Asian Mental Health project

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week (26 Sep – 2 Oct), researcher and activist Mehwish Mughal and Grace Gassin, Curator Asian New Zealand Histories, proudly launch our new Asian Mental Health project.

Grace and Mehwish stand in front of a sign advertising the Asian Mental Health project, holding copies of the zine
Grace Gassin and Mehwish Mughal, 2022. Photo by Daniel Crichton-Rouse. Te Papa

What can we do to address the urgent and unique mental health needs of Asian communities in Aotearoa?

Decades of advocacy and a growing body of research clearly show that people of Asian heritages face unique challenges in obtaining mental health support in Aotearoa. Yet Asian and Asian New Zealanders’ mental health remains largely invisible in public health debates.

This project aims to put Asian mental health – in all its complexity – on New Zealand’s health map.

We want to shift the focus away from discussions of the ‘cultural’ issues supposedly holding us back and on to how we can challenge and dismantle the systemic barriers within Aotearoa’s health system that prevent us from thriving.

Through this collaboration between Te Papa and a range of knowledge holders with critical perspectives on Asian mental health and wellbeing, we engage the museum as a site of collaboration and positive change – a place where it is possible for our histories, stories, and voices to be seen and heard.

Over the coming days and months, we will share with you:

  • our zine, Unravelling threads: Asian mental health (available now), featuring submissions from contributors of diverse Asian heritages on mental health-related themes and experiences
  • videos exploring key mental health topics relevant to Asian and other marginalised communities
  • blogs delving further into the perspectives and work of those involved in this project
  • Asian mental health project-related events happening within and beyond Te Papa’s walls
  • objects revealing important dimensions of experience at the intersection of Asian diasporic identity and wellbeing.

As the project unfolds, you’ll see that our conception of mental health is necessarily broad – this is to ensure that all those doing important work within our communities are recognised and valued as important leaders in shaping these conversations about us.

Want to help us represent Asian mental health-related histories in the museum?

We’re keen to develop our collections to include histories and stories at the intersection of Asian diasporic identity and mental health. We are also interested in objects and collections which could help us materially document histories of Asian health/mental health advocacy.

Do you own objects which you think could help us do that? If so, or if you have any questions about this, please feel free to get in touch with us at asianmentalhealth@tepapa.govt.nz.

This week we have a pop-up station located on Level 2 at Te Papa where you can browse copies of Unravelling threads. Mehwish and Grace will be present 2–4pm on Thu 29 Sep if you would like to know more about the project and meet the people behind it!

Asian mental health pop-up zine station – with Mehwish Mughal and Grace Gassin

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