Exploring Latin American Women Migrant’s Experiences of Accessing and Utilising Primary Health Care for Mental Health Care Needs in Aotearoa, New Zealand

Ribeiro Garcia de Rezende, Mariana
Holroyd, Eleanor
Brannelly, Tula
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

What barriers and facilitators do Latin American women migrants face when accessing and utilising primary health services for mental health care needs in Aotearoa New Zealand, and how do these experiences affect their perception of mental health care in the country? New Zealand has experienced an increased influx of Latin American migrants. The migration process is recognised as a significant source of stress, and various factors associated with the migrant status contribute to an increased risk of mental health issues. Migrants usually face multiple barriers to accessing healthcare services in the host country. Women migrants may accumulate risk factors for mental distress and face more challenges in accessing healthcare services than men, Ensuring that effective mental health support is offered to this population is crucial. A qualitative descriptive approach underpinned by a transnational feminist theoretical framework was used in this study to explore the barriers and facilitators faced by Latin American women migrants when accessing and utilising primary health services for mental health care in New Zealand. The analysis also investigates how these experiences shape their perception of mental health care in their host country. Through semi-structured in-depth interviews, eight Latin American women currently living in New Zealand shared their experiences. A thematic analysis of the data was conducted, and the findings were organised into three themes: “Accessing Primary Health Services for Mental Health Needs”, “Engaging with Primary Health Services for Mental Health Needs”, and “Connecting with Primary Health Services for Mental Health Needs”. The subtheme “Obtaining mental health information as a migrant” offered findings that aligned with existing literature, as it suggested that globally Latin American women migrants have low mental health literacy regarding available support services to receive and continue to receive mental health assistance. The subtheme “Seeing the GP as a condition to accessing psychological therapy services” revealed that the requirement to see the general practitioner (GP) to obtain a referral for psychological services was seen as a barrier to accessing timely and efficient mental health care, besides also being viewed as being invasive. Other findings included the perception that non-comprehensive medical assessments are inadequate for mental health support and that dismissive responses to mental distress complaints are due to a lack of empathy and mental health skills among GPs. Lastly, primary healthcare services are perceived as unreliable in addressing mental health needs for this population. Recommendations that can be applied to guide improvements for the mental health support of these women in New Zealand include the promotion of mental health information; facilitating direct access to psychological services; fostering collaborative participation of mental health care professionals to discuss their subjectivities and intervention plans; offering a better quality of mental health assessments with extended duration consultations; and educating professionals that show sufficient cultural sensitivity and recognition of the population’s vulnerabilities, and who encourage their active participation in care planning.

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