Yanchep mental health advocate to speak at G200 2017 Youth Forum in Dubai

Tandi Kuwana. Picture: Martin Kennealey.
Tandi Kuwana. Picture: Martin Kennealey.

A YANCHEP resident will speak about mental health among migrants at the G200 2017 Youth Forum in Dubai this week.

Mental Health Keys founder Tandi Kuwana will give a presentation on multicultural mental health at the December 6 to 10 summit.

The registered mental health nurse has 14 years experience working in inpatient and outpatient mental health services.

Mrs Kuwana founded a social enterprise to raise awareness of mental health in migrant communities after being diagnosed with depression in 2016. She said cultural beliefs made it hard to accept the diagnosis.

“My cultural belief is that mental illness is caused by evil spirits or someone casting a spell on me,” she said.

“My childhood memory of mental illness does not have names of different mental health illness like here in Australia.

“I grew up seeing homeless people talking to themselves and was told that was mental illness.”

Mrs Kuwana, who was originally from Zimbabwe and lived in the UK before coming to Perth, said the stigma attached to mental illness deterred her from seeking help.

“Being a migrant or refugee brings about its own challenges, including social isolation, and this is the narrative for most migrants,” she said.

Now on her recovery journey, Mrs Kuwana wants to give hope and be the voice of other migrants suffering with mental illness.

“Mental health awareness is important for those who come from communities with no direct translation of psychiatric terms and it empowers them to seek help,” she said.

“Imagine, there are people experiencing depression and anxiety but don’t know what is going on with them because they have no word for it; there is no description in their native language.

“By working with service providers to increase their knowledge of cultural health beliefs, the hope is that service provision becomes more holistic and culturally sensitive.

“The workshops with community members will empower community members to change their help seeking behaviours.”

Mrs Kuwana works with not-for-profit mental health services including The Smith Family, Ishar Multicultural Women’s services and the Multicultural Migrant Resource Centre.

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