For Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, the Biden-Harris Administration hosted a White House Forum at George Washington University. This event celebrated the many contributions AANHPI communities have made to this country, and it also provided an open forum for conversations that will advance equity, justice and opportunities for these communities.
Breakout Convening on “Supporting the Mental Health Needs of the AA and NHPI Communities”
The first panel was moderated by Sejal Hathi, Senior Policy Advisor for Public Health, Domestic Policy Council for The White House. She was joined by Kevin Kreider, Actor, CEO and Founder of ALLS Productions and Sans Alcohol Free by Taejin Beverage, and Trina Dutta, Senior Advisor to the Office of the Assistant Secretary with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).
During this panel, conversations surrounded the intersectionality of AANHPI culture and mental health. Hathi highlighted how many AANHPI families put pressure on their children to succeed, creating a perfectionist, resilience culture where mental health has a negative connotation. As a recovering alcoholic, Kreider tells his story about the stigmas in AANHPI communities around alcoholism and substance use disorders. He aims to unveil addiction, to remove the stigma around addiction and rehabilitation in his community. Further, to address the systems of public health, Dutta emphasized the need for a whole-person centered care approach. This means looking at someone from all lenses to provide appropriate care.
The second panel was moderated by Richard Lui, Anchor and Journalist with MSNBC/NBC News. He was joined by DJ Ida, Executive Director for National Asian American Pacific Islanders Mental Health Association, David Ko, CEO of the Calm App, Sahaj Kohli, founder of the Brown Girl Therapy, and Mina Fedor, Founder and Executive Director of AAPI Youth Rising.
This panel discussed ways to move forward to foster change around mental health in AANHPI communities. The panel suggests how we must change the vernacular when talking about mental health. Often in conversations, mental health is synonymous with mental illness. When we continue to talk about and provide support for mental health in AANHPI communities, we reframe the narrative and open the dialogue.
In addition, the panel discussed the need to expand the behavioral health workforce to be more culturally competent and diverse. AANHPI communities represent over 50 ethnic groups and over 100 languages, so there is a need to have the behavioral health workforce represent these communities. To note, Kohli highlighted the work the American Counseling Association is doing on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures to expand the workforce and provide opportunities for the counseling profession.
Vice President Kamala Harris closed the forum by highlighting the achievements of the Biden-Harris Administration towards advancing equity, justice, and opportunities for the AANHPI communities. For example, the Administration reserved $12 billion in government funding for community banks to invest in small businesses, including AANHPI businesses. As a child of an immigrant, the Vice President shares her story of growing up in a diverse community and the importance of representation. To strengthen the voices of those historically unheard, the Vice President Harris urges everyone to advocate and build coalitions to fight for true representation.
The breakout convenings, panels, and artistic performances paid tribute to the rich AANHPI histories and cultures. To view the full list of speakers and performers, please visit the White House Forum website. For more information or if you would like to become involved in ACA’s advocacy efforts, you can contact the ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.