A woman who has spent more than two decades working to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness within south western Sydney’s Vietnamese-speaking community is the winner of this year’s NSW Mental Health Commissioner’s Community Champion Award.
Minh Tam Nguyen is a bilingual health educator for South Western Sydney Local Health District, working in its Fairfield and Liverpool mental health units to support people in their recovery. Outside of work, she is very active in Sydney’s Vietnamese community, helping families learn more about mental health and find support if they are struggling.
NSW Mental Health Commissioner Catherine Lourey nominated Ms Nguyen for the annual Community Champion Award after meeting her during a visit with members of Sydney’s Vietnamese-speaking community in 2017.
“Ms Nguyen has shown extraordinary commitment and passion to helping members of Sydney’s Vietnamese community learn more about mental health issues,” Ms Lourey said.
“Her work is especially important because, as community members told me, there is no equivalent word in Vietnamese for ‘mental illness’ and families affected traditionally suffer great shame and stigma.
“Ms Nguyen has stood up to stigma and encouraged families to reach out early and get the help they need.”
Ms Nguyen arrived in Australia in 1988 as a refugee from Vietnam. Her achievements include:
- With the support of South Western Sydney Local Health District, running 33 Vietnamese Mental Health First Aid courses, teaching 700 community members how to recognise and respond to people in distress
- Helping families affected by mental health issues find local support groups and services
- Developing a directory of Vietnamese mental health professionals, which she hopes to launch later this year.
Ms Nguyen said she has learned even simply talking about mental health with people helps break down stigma and misunderstanding.
“Once people understand everyone has mental health and needs to look after it, they are more open to learning about how to help themselves and their family members,” Ms Nguyen said.
The annual NSW Mental Health Commissioner’s Community Champion Award is given to an individual or organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to mental health and wellbeing in their community.