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New Programs Aim To Address Stress, Depression AAPI Community Faces

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It's also Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In recent years, the two have been thrown into the spotlight amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Historically mental health has never been something that has been openly talked about in many Asian cultures, but the hate and backlash Asians have received because of COVID-19, and the stresses of the pandemic itself, have served as almost a breaking point for Asians to get help. And it's not just adults, it's kids too.

Hlub Zoo is one of the many mental health programs offered through the Wilder Foundation nonprofit; it's geared towards the health and well-being of Hmong people.

It started 12 years ago, providing resources to 35 students at Jackson Elementary School, and now it's expanded to seven schools serving upwards of 400 students from elementary to high school.

Leaders say in the last several years specifically they've seen a rise in the number of teen Hmong boys who've died by suicide. They say that tragedy has led to more Asian families being open to mental health services.

"Now when I call a parent and I ask about symptoms, we talk about depression. Instead of saying no right away, they are actually open to learning more about the symptoms and the resources and the help that is out there for their children," Amherst Wilder Foundation senior clinical supervisor Mary Her said.

The program is unique in that therapists from the Hmong community work with Hmong students not just at school but also outside of the school day and with their families to provide a wholistic approach.

Two and a half years ago, the program came to Harding High School, where more than half of the student population is of Asian descent.

The school's principal says addressing mental health needs cannot be a one-size-fits-all.

"Mental health shows up differently in different communities. I know that in the Asian-American communities, our students are not vocal about what they're going through. You know, they suppress it, they withdraw," Bee Vang said.

The Wilder Foundation also has other culturally specific programs offering mental health resources to African-American and Latinx youth, and because of the increase need they're starting a new program for the Karen population -- that's those from Burma/Myanmar who are now here after escaping the political violence and unrest in their home country.

If you or someone you know is having a mental health emergency please know help is always available. You can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week; the number is 800-273-8255.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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