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Faafetai Sopoaga Jacques van der Meer Shyamala Nada-Raja Tim Wilkinson Sarah Jutel



Aim : To explore the mental health and factors that impact on the wellbeing of Pacific students in their first year at University.

Methods : Twenty Pacific students who enrolled to study in the Health Sciences First Year at a University in New Zealand in 2015 were randomly selected to participate in this research. Participants were interviewed three times during their first year at University. The Pacific research methodology Talanoa was used for the data collection process. Of the 60 planned interviews, 59 were able to be completed. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and uploaded to NVivo to assist data management. Data was analysed using a thematic approach.


Pacific students reported on their experiences of various stresses during the year. Some stress was related to their own personal expectations and others due to expectations of others. Students experienced a range of emotions and symptoms in response to these stresses. Many had developed skills or effective management strategies to deal with these stresses. For many, resilience contributed to maintaining wellbeing. In addition, families, friends, peers, mentors, supportive staff and targeted Pacific support services played critical roles in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of Pacific students in the first year at University.


There is increasing concern worldwide about students’ mental health and wellbeing in higher education. Pacific students felt stressed for many reasons which affected their mental health in the first year at University. Their resilience and other coping skills and connecting to a wide support network enabled them to maintain wellness. Pacific students or those from minority groups are likely to require different and or more support to enable them to adapt to the higher education environment. Strengthening and facilitating access to support networks and culturally relevant services, and increasing connectedness and sense of belonging, are important for Pacific students’ mental health and wellbeing in the tertiary environment.  

Article Details

Original Research

How to Cite

Mental health and wellbeing of Pacific students starting University in New Zealand. (2018). Pacific Health Dialog, 21(2), 71-79.