Assertive Communication Program for Chinese Australians - Final Report

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Recent qualitative research conducted in Sydney suggests that there is considerable stigma attached to mental illness among low-acculturated Chinese-Australians. Under-utilisation of mental health services within Australia’s ethnic communities is well established. It is proposed that culturally-appropriate programs in “Assertive Communication Training” could help reducing acculturation stress (i.e. illness prevention) which, in turn, may open the door to accessing relevant information regarding mental health services (i.e. health promotion). Low-acculturated Chinese (N = 26) were recruited from ethnic media to attend seven, weekly, 90-minute workshops on assertive communication. The interactive program (adapted for non-Westerners) was aimed at improving interpersonal communication skills, especially during cross-cultural encounters. Fact sheets on mental illness and bilingual mental health services were provided seamlessly during the program. Participants completed the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS) and the Suinn-Lew Self-Identification Acculturation Scale pre- and 6-months post-training. Qualitative data assessing the impact of the program and strategies used to manage daily stress were also collected. Overall, participants rated the program as highly satisfactory. There was a marked improvement across all DASS subscales, particularly the Stress subscale. Pre- to post-training scores indicated a decrease in stress levels from above the normative mean for Chinese Australians (M=7.51) to levels well below this mean (M_T1=7.72; M_T2=6.44), p=.148. The results also indicated a significant improvement on measures of acculturation, p=.001. Finally, the qualitative component of the study yielded a rich description of assertive communication strategies used by participants to resolve conflicts, maintain positive emotional states and boost self-confidence. The results of this small, pilot study yielded positive and encouraging findings. The program, perceived by participants as carrying no stigma, was effective in reducing stress levels and improving acculturation in a sample of low-acculturated Chinese-Australians. The program was well received suggesting that further culturallyappropriate programs are needed to improve the mental health and well-being of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) or ethnic minority groups.
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Chan, Bibiana Chi Wing
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UNSW Faculty