An exploration of social construction of mental health : perspectives of Pakistani diaspora in Aotearoa : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Sociology at Massey University, Albany, Aotearoa, New Zealand

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The ‘Asian’ population in Aotearoa is growing significantly. Quantitatively, an increase of 26 per cent by the year 2043 is projected (Stats, 2022). Despite this increase, Asian health in Aotearoa is a neglected area of research (Chiang et al., 2021). Research suggests an urgent need to address the mental health concerns among Asian communities (Xia, 2021) but Asian mental health remains absent from the mainstream discourse. Research has also identified that Asian communities have unique ways of understanding and managing mental health, but these almost always are explained through Western constructs and conceptualisations. The purpose of this thesis is to move beyond western conceptualisations of health and well-being to examine the social construction of mental health among the Muslim Pakistani diaspora in Aotearoa – one subset of the Asian communities. Using a qualitative methodology of in-depth interviews with ten participants, this research examines how the Pakistani diaspora constructs mental health and how these constructions are influenced by culture and gender. This research showed that the Pakistani diaspora has a complex and nuanced way of socially constructing mental health that are tied to the dominant discourses prevalent in both Pakistan and Aotearoa. Participants predominantly drew on the biomedical discourse, the contemporary well-being discourse, and the religious-spiritual discourse. The research also shows that the concept of mental health is not static for Pakistani diaspora but instead it is constantly being navigated, negotiated and in some instances resisted. The research raises important questions about the dynamic social constructions of mental health among Asian communities in Aotearoa and its implications.