Culture and family at the core of CM Health psychologist’s work

Latest News 12 February | Lunar New Year, the most important celebration in many Asian countries, is a very important event for Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) Psychologist Dr Jennifer Hauraki and her family.

“We drop everything for Reunion Dinner on New Year’s eve when we come together as a family and invite friends over. We follow the traditions, such as gifting oranges as a symbol of respect.

“It’s important to keep celebrating culture, traditions and all the aspects that make us unique and amazing; this is the essence of our wellbeing.”

Dr Hauraki was born in Singapore. Her parents met and fell in love in Malaysia, when they were working in the same company, he in computer programming and she as an accountant. Her mum is Singaporean Chinese and her family dialect is Hakka, but they also speak Mandarin and Cantonese. Her dad is New Zealand Maaori (Ngaati Hine, Ngaapuhi-nui-tonu) from Pipiwai.

When Dr Hauraki was about nine-years-old, the family decided it was time to come home to New Zealand. They settled in Mangere East, where she currently lives with her partner and three kids.

“South Auckland is where my heart is, I love every aspect of it.”

Working as a Consultant Clinical Psychologist in CM Health since 2008, she sees children and teens aged 4 to 18 who experience mental health difficulties such as emotional distress, self-harm, depression, anxiety and behavioural issues who are referred by family doctors and schools. She also works with their whaanau and the wider system - such as schools, social workers, Ministry of Education and NGOs (non-governmental organisations).

“I chose my profession based on what I went through when I came to New Zealand. It was a very monocultural society then and I struggled to adapt and experienced racism just because of the way I looked and the fact that I came from a country where Chinese is the dominant culture. I wanted to help people experiencing similar issues.

“I work with people from all backgrounds. I always start by getting a sense of their family’s culture, where their roots are, where their family comes from and whether they are immigrants, second or third generation New Zealanders. I start with introductions; taking the time to get to know them and for them to know me. Whakawhanaungatanga also works with Asian families.”

Dr Hauraki knows that some people are afraid to seek treatment for mental health because of stigma and also fear that our service will share their information with other government agencies.

“I want to reassure people that everything they say to CM Health Mental Health services is absolutely confidential. We don’t share any personal information with other agencies; we don’t share anything with Immigration. We only share information that our clients agree to.

“I understand what the social and cultural barriers are and how hard it is to try to navigate this system having different cultural backgrounds. I am still navigating it myself and with my kids.”

She encourages people who are facing mental health issues, to seek support.

“If you need help please contact your family doctor and they can refer you to us – it is free, confidential and we can help you.”

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