Kingston therapists aim to remove Korean stigma to mental health

Psychological therapists and wellbeing specialists in Kingston, south west London, are developing their online therapy service to offer particular support to the area’s significant Korean community.

It is estimated that up to 20,000 people from a Korean background – the largest Korean population in Europe and about 50% of the overall UK Korean community – live in Greater London, particularly populated in and around Kingston borough.

The number of Koreans accessing Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust’s (C&I) Kingston iCOPE psychological therapy services is very limited though and the team, under Clinical Lead Rhona Trotter, is now working to break down the strong stigma within the Korean community about mental health.

An online interactive therapy programme, recently launched by C&I for Kingston, is now being translated into Korean and a trainee Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, Korean-born Winny Youn, will work with the service for a year from this month (Sept) to strengthen links with the community.

Winny, who settled in the UK 18 years ago, said: “There is very little access from the Korean community to therapy services in the area at the moment.

“They do not recognise low mood, depression or anxiety. Traditionally, if you complain about your mood you are seen as weak or as having a personality defect.”

Winny’s appointment will build on the work of Korean-born Sunyoung Lee, who was appointed as an honorary counsellor at Kingston iCope just over a year ago.

Sunyoung said: “The online programme will be invaluable input for the Korean community, helping educate them about what help is available and providing easier access.”

The Korean version of the online therapy programme will mirror the English version, with modules for topics such as Panic, Depression, Work Stress and Relaxation.

If successful, the approach could also be used elsewhere in Kingston for other communities including the Polish and Sri Lankans – in line with one of the key themes of C&I’s new Clinical Strategy to make services available to all communities.

Kingston’s Korean population started to grow in the 1950s as a legacy of the UK’s involvement in the Korean War, but has risen due to the popularity with students of nearby London universities and the arrival of South Korean companies such as Samsung and Kia Motors.

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