Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Social Work teamed up with the nonprofit organization Viet-C.A.R.E. to host the API Mental Health Empowerment Conference Friday.
The event featured workshops, speakers and representatives from social work agencies to promote mental health awareness.
“We are celebrating the Asian-Pacific Islander community and empowering them on helping us destigmatize mental illness and substance abuse,” said executive director of Viet-C.A.R.E. Lorna Santos-Pham.
Viet-C.A.R.E. is a mental health support organization geared toward Asian-Pacific Islanders. Santos-Pham said mental illness is still heavily stigmatized in Asian-Pacific culture.
“We have the lowest population seeking treatment,” Santos-Pham said.
The nonprofit provides mental health services to the underrepresented and to those lacking resources and focuses on combating the stigma of mental illness through providing education.
“It starts with us. All of us have experience with some form, some way of mental illness or substance use,” Santos-Pham said. “We shouldn’t be afraid to speak up about our own experiences.”
CSUF lecturer for the department of social work Duan Tran co-hosted the event with Santos-Pham.
“I was very excited to have the opportunity to bridge academia and the community agencies that we work so closely with,” Tran said.
The conference ran from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and began with a complimentary breakfast in the Titan Student Union. Admission was $50 for students and $150 for non-students
Congresswoman Judy Chu and Alhambra Chief of Police Tim Vu were scheduled speakers, and nine workshops focused on different aspects of mental health.
Senior health services major Cynthia Tran attended the first workshop of the day, a seminar on Vietnamese parent-child relationships.
“Parents need to be able to encourage their children to do better,” Cynthia Tran said. “There’s a lot of expectations in the Asian community on what their children should know and what they should be able to do on their own.”
Other workshop topics included mental health services for the transgender community, postpartum depression and overcoming barriers for second generation Asian-Americans.
The conference also offered an opportunity for students to network with representatives in the social work industry.
“I’m here to explore,” Cynthia Tran said. “I wanted to know more about mental health empowerment and how to network better with other organizations.”
Grace Park attended the event as a speaker and representative from the Korean Youth and Community Center. She led a workshop titled “Opening Doors to Health, Wellness, and Recovery: the Korean Integrated Services and Management Model Program.”
“The main message we want folks to know is the population we work with, the Korean community, are often mislabeled as a model minority. People think ‘Oh you’re Asian, you’re successful,’” Park said. “A lot of Koreans do struggle with mental illness.”
For students, Park advocates seeking out mental health services.
“Mental illness is very common across the board. One in four people are identified as having mental illness,” Park said. “We do want students to know if you are struggling with mental illness … There is help available.”
Speakers, attendees and representatives gathered for lunch and watched a performance by traditional Korean dancers. Spoken-word artist and rapper Melione Hoang performed an original song, then shared with the crowd her personal struggles with mental illness.
“We all come in with one perspective. Hopefully, you walk out with 10 more different perspectives,” Duan Tran said. “We all struggle (with mental illness) in one way or another, but as a community and as a whole, we can definitely rise above this.”