*Sue packed up her family’s life in China more than a decade ago with her sights set on living the Kiwi dream, but the reality of moving to a foreign country wasn’t what she expected.
“We came to New Zealand for a better life but it was totally different in reality. It was a shock for me, I didn’t know what to do.”
Sue says she couldn’t drive and struggled with the language barrier, despite learning some English before she arrived.
“I couldn’t understand people and I felt like a helpless baby who couldn’t communicate her needs.”
Sue says finding a job in her new country was stressful, she felt useless and couldn’t sleep properly for three months.
She says deciding not to reach out for help made her feel even more isolated and desperate.
“I wanted to die, I stayed in bed all day and I didn’t do anything.”
Sue was reluctant to share her experience with mental illness because of the stigma around mental health and mental illness in the Chinese community.
“I didn’t want to talk to Chinese people because they would treat me like a mad person and look down on me. For a while, I didn’t talk to anyone and that made it worse.”
But there was a turning point for Sue and she began her journey to recovery.
Reaching out for help
Sue opened up to her English tutor, who put her in touch with community mental health services. She got the medication, therapy and support she needed.
“I was desperate for help, I didn’t care what other people thought of me, I just wanted to get better for my daughter. I realised I couldn’t go, it would be selfish…my daughter would be alone without a mother.”
Sue says she is still on anti-depressants and is living with depression, but she’s enjoying life again.
“I am a different person now…I have a job, I can speak English, even though it’s not perfect, I’m gardening and I have built a network of friends.”
A message for the Chinese community
Sue wants to use her experience with depression to help others in the Chinese community.
“My illness is my treasure; I don’t want other people to suffer and I want people to know there is light.
Sue is determined to help end the stigma and discrimination that Chinese people attach to mental illness.
“You don’t have to hide anything, it’s just like any other disease and you haven’t done anything wrong.
“There’s so much support for mental health in New Zealand and it’s not seen the same way as it is in China.”
Sue says the journey to recovery starts with reaching out to friends and family.
“If you don’t speak out, loved ones don’t know how to support you and Chinese people need to know that there is help out there…people do really care.”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy