In 2010, Chien-Chi Huang of Asian Women for Health, Niem Nay-Kret of the Lowell Community Health Center, Pata Suyemoto, and a handful of others concurred, "We need to come together and talk about our mental health in an open, positive way." Thus was born the volunteer, community-run, annual Asian American Mental Health Forum!
Thanks to strong and continuous DMH support, the forum has become a statewide event that addresses the mental health concerns of Massachusetts’ Asian American communities. The forums bring together people with lived experience of mental and behavioral health challenges with researchers, policy makers and practitioners, all on an equal footing, to share their expertise and learn from each other.
The forum’s mission remains to bring the many stakeholders concerned about the health of Asian American communities together to share information, improve care and treatment, and create community. In recent years, the forums have also integrated the role arts and creativity can play in helping individuals and communities recover and maintain mental wellness. Genki Spark, a women’s taiko drumming troupe, did the keynote address in 2014. Princess Moon, a young Cambodian spoken word poet, rhythmically evoked her experience with depression during the opening of the 2016 forum. This year, the forum included an art exhibit showcasing work by Massachusetts Asian artists!
The forum provides a space in which attendees feel comfortable sharing their mental health strengths and challenges. Coming together creates connections. Attendees at the 2019 forum commented:
"Having a safe, shared space to talk and learn about issues so central and stigmatized in the Asian community [was most valuable to me]."
"The positive energy I have from this forum helps me own and let go of some of my internal discrimination."
The most valuable part of the forums is the connections that are created. DMH and Malden’s Mayor, Gary Christenson, continue to work together to find mental health resources for the city’s students; the forum’s social policy networking table resulted in outreach funding for Action for Boston Community Development’s Health Services Program; and the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers reached out to us to help find Asian social workers interested in joining their Racial Justice Committee.
July is Minority Mental Health Month, but really the focus needs to be during every month. We’ve started planning this year’s Asian American Mental Health Forum because mental health and wellness are continuously worth thinking about and pursuing for all. Thank you to DMH for being a key partner in this pursuit!
If you would like to get involved with this year's Forum, please connect to the group's page on Facebook to receive the latest updates.
By: Roxanne Reddington-Wilde
Forum’s Logistics Subcommittee Chair
Thank you so much for attending the 11th Annual Asian American Mental Health Forum’s “Pathways to Access and Mental Wellness.” We hope you had fun and that you found the conference informative and helpful!