You’re Not Alone: Addressing Mental Health in Programs

By Liana Shivers, VA Programs Manager 

Photos & Media courtesy of AALEAD Staff 

“They are too scared…” 

“They don’t have the opportunity…” 

“Maybe they don’t know they need help?” 

The end of April is here and as we gear up for summer programs starting in June, we’re also wrapping up spring programs and final projects for the month of May which also happens to be Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. 

Knowing that neither of those topics should be confined to one month a year, mental health especially as it relates to identity is an ongoing key issue for AALEAD. But in the context of a particularly intense time from COVID to the rise in anti-Asian violence and hate, youth experience the added challenge of navigating school and the constant changes and stressors that come with it: 

A light pink google slide titled “What causes me stress?” with blue boxes that contain reasons youth are stressed including “deadlines, expectation, family, Covid, politics, prepar[ing] for university”.

To say the least, mental health spaces for AAPI youth are extremely important right now. 

To do just that, AALEAD hosted facilitators from the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) in cross-regional programs throughout April where youth learned about:

  • the signs and symptoms of mental health challenges
  • how to seek help for themselves or their peers
  • the firsthand experiences of young people dealing with ongoing mental health challenges 
  • resources to support them in dealing with the challenges  to seeking help (such as those named by youth in the beginning of this post)

Some youth shared statements they’ve heard or experienced about mental health stigma:

  • “People will think I’m stupid if I tell them that I have a mental health condition” 
  • “People with mental health issues are violent”
  • “People with mental health [challenges] are crazy”

Others shared messages people internalize: 

  • “They tend to tell themselves that others are going through worse and make themselves feel worse”
  • “[It’s] easy to get over it” 
  • “It’s nothing, you can deal with it”

One youth, after hearing someone name perfectionism as part of their experience and relating, asked: 

  • “How do you overcome perfectionist tendencies? Or is that something you still deal with today?” 

And more youth shared reasons why we should all ask for help and share what we’re going through:

  • “Reaching out to someone can help you treat it before it worsens”
  • “It allows you to express yourself and have someone else understand”

 For youth, being empowered through ways they can be their own or each other’s advocates via spaces that cater to their identity specific experiences is critical. Just as critical as talking about mental health with friends, family, and community members to normalize experiences, engage in self help and as another youth said, “to see [that you’re] not alone.” 

Feel free to check out and share some of the links below! 

Asian Mental Health Collective 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)


Special thank you to our staff and volunteer partners in collaboration at the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness! 

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