By Razia Kosi
CHAI has been busy during Mental Health Awareness Month! We kicked off the month with a presentation with over 70 mental health professionals at the Children’s Center and Family Services Fall Speakers series. The topic was “Moving Beyond Bollywood and 9/11 When Engaging with South Asian Clients.” This three-hour presentation was comprised primarily of clinicians who are not South Asian and working either in private practice or counseling centers. The opportunity to understand and gain awareness of different experiences was welcomed and dynamic. Using film clips, case presentation and discussion to enhance the learning helped to make meaning of the information at the workshop. Participants were able to surface their own biases and reactions to working with South Asian clients as well as understand some commonalities and differences in working with this diverse population.
The Asian American Student Union at the University of Maryland held their FUEL (Forging, Understanding, Empowering, Leading) Leadership Conference, with the theme of FUEL: Invisible Issues. CHAI was invited to host an interactive workshop addressing mental health. Other topics discussed at the conference included immigration, LGBTQ issues, domestic violence prevention, and racism. This was especially meaningful for several CHAI members, who are alumni of the University of MD, and two board members, Kumudha Kumarachandran and Nikki Modi, who were each Officers of the Asian American Student Union!
This session, titled ‘Ending the Invisible Pain’, had about 30 undergraduate participants who engaged in dialogue about stigma and misconceptions with mental health in the Asian communities. The students were inspired to take action and be more vocal in talking about mental health in a positive manner. They came to the conclusion that the myth about mental illness being a character flaw or weakness is a damaging misconception that is keeping individuals from seeking help and healing. It was powerful to hear how many of the individuals will be willing to voice their own struggles about coping with stress and anxiety in the hopes of making it safer for others. These students are truly examples of leadership and forging understanding!
With one weekend in the month left, CHAI hosted a table at a health fair hosted by the National Coalition of Asian Indians Associations and the Asian American Health Initiative in Maryland. We were delighted to be a part of dynamic group of healthcare providers wanting to serve the Asian and South Asian communities. Several members of the Governor’s Office on South Asian Affairs complimented CHAI’s work and voiced the need for addressing mental health. While most participants were appreciative of our information and the healthy snacks of red grapes, a few folks were hoping to get a hot cup of chai while visiting our table! It just goes to show you… chai will draw you in and the goodness you receive will keep you involved with CHAI.