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Webs of Hope

Posted by on May 17th, 2017 Posted in: Blog, Patient Engagement, Public Health

“You are the Spinners of Webs of Hope”

Eighth Annual Asian American Mental Health Forum
Higgins Campus Center, Clark University Worcester, MA

Monica Bharel, MD DPH Commissioner, MA Department of Public Health gives the Afternoon Keynote.

Monica Bharel, MD DPH Commissioner, MA Department of Public Health gives the Afternoon Keynote.

On Wednesday, May 10th Clark University in Worcester hosted the Eighth Annual Asian American Mental Health Forum. This year’s forum, in a similar fashion to previous years, was planned and presented by an all-volunteer community. From 9AM to 3PM I was immersed into Massachusetts’s Asian American culture through presentations and discussion forums from Massachusetts’ Asian community leaders, the debut of a new and thought-provoking film Looking for Luke, and through Asian artisans sharing their world through poetry, pottery, photography, painting, weaving, sewing, cooking and dance.

Christina Chan from the Breaking Silences Project served as the Master of Ceremonies and opened up the forum introducing local and state leaders who each shared their perspective on the need to end the current stigma that is attached to mental health, This stigma is especially prevalent in the Asian American population.

In the first session of the forum, the presenters from the Boston University School of Social Work, Mass General Hospital and Newton-Wellesley Hospital underscored the need for suicide prevention across the life span through honest communication and giving as much attention to mental health as is given to physical health. The morning ended with narratives from community stakeholders such as the Southeast Coalition of Central Massachusetts, and a few members of the Burmese community presenting the community perspectives of suicide and its prevention.

After a delicious lunch prepared by local Asian chefs from around the Worcester area, participants were asked to choose to attend one of the five workshops offered. The workshops were:

  • Navigating Culture and the Asian Perception of Health and Health Care
  • Question, Persuade, Refer (QRI, an evidence-based training that addressed suicide prevention)
  • Engaging in Public Advocacy as an Immigrant
  • Asian, Queer, Crip: Disability Justice in Intersected Lives
  • The Worcester Experience: Challenges, Solutions, Sustainability on the Promotion of Mental Wellness and Suicide Prevention Through Community Partnerships


Monica Bharel, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health delivered the Afternoon Keynote giving an update about what the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is doing to promote mental health and to end the stigma. The youth from the Southeast Asian Coalition ended this interesting and informative day by performing a Lion Dance.

As a first-time participant in this forum I came away with a more accurate understanding of the many cultures that make up the Asian-American community in Massachusetts – Cambodian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino. Another underlying theme of the forum was the great need for cultural sensitivity as the first step in providing physical and mental health care.

Thank you,

Susan Halpin

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This has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, under cooperative agreement number UG4LM012347 with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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