Wellness in Mind: Mental Health First Aid for Filipino Americans

Recent research examining Filipino American mental health need and utilization showed that there is a divergent relationship between our community’s need and use of mental health services. Filipino Americans are more likely to seek support and help from a family member, a clergyperson, or other individuals in their lay support networks than see a professional psychological provider. However, Filipino Americans will see a professional psychological provider if symptoms of mental illness or substance abuse become severe. In an effort to aid the Filipino American community in obtaining mental health services before symptoms are severe, Tu and I created an ethnic specific version of Mental Health First Aid. The purpose of Mental Health First Aid is to equip community members with the knowledge of mental illness symptoms. Most importantly, Mental Health First Aid teaches community members how to assist individuals who may be experiencing these symptoms and help them receive the care they need before it worsens. In the spirit of Mental Health First Aid’s purpose, Tu and I created of a version of Mental Health First Aid, “Wellness In Mind,” that centralizes on the experience of Filipino Americans. We hoped that “Wellness In Mind” would bridge the gap between the need for mental health care and its utilization within our community. We partnered with Reverend Leonard Oakes and the congregation from Holy Family and St. Martin Episcopal Church in Daly City. We hosted our “Wellness In Mind” workshops on selected Sundays from March to June after Sunday morning service.

Workshop curriculum includes the definition, etiology, signs and symptoms, cultural case example, and culturally centered coping strategies for the highlighted topics. The topics covered in “Wellness Matters” were depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis, substance use disorder, and eating disorders. June’s topic will be intellectual disabilities.

May’s “Wellness Matters” workshop was on bipolar disorder and psychosis. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is characterized by extreme and unusual shifts in energy, activity

levels, mood and productivity. This is different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. The symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. These shifts make it very hard for the individual to carry out daily tasks, maintain friendships/romantic relationships, keep a job, and/or stay in school. Bipolar disorder symptoms can even lead to suicide. Bipolar disorder is also sometimes called “manic depression.” Doctors do not know the exact cause of bipolar disorder, but genes may be a factor because it sometimes runs in families.

This does not mean that if someone in your family has bipolar disorder, someone else will also have it. However, it does mean that it is more likely to be within families. Doctors also found that bipolar disorder may be related to brain structure or the function of the person with the disorder. While we do not know the exact cause of bipolar disorder, we do know that it is more than being “crazy” or “hard headed.” It is a medical condition that requires treatment.

Psychosis is a clinical term used to describe a mental health illness where a person experiences a sense of loss with reality, which may result in disturbances in their ability to think, feel, and behave. Psychosis is a state of being that can severely disrupt an individual’s relationships, ability to work, and ability to carry out usual activities. Carrying out everyday functioning may become more difficult. One of the most commonly known brain disorders that presents with psychosis is schizophrenia. We are still learning about the cause of psychosis and how it develops. A combination of factors is believed to put an individual at higher risk of experiencing an episode of psychosis. This includes the following:

  • Genetics – Genes may contribute to the development of psychosis, but a gene alone doesn’t mean you will experience psychosis.
  • Trauma – Events, such as, experience of a death, war, sexual assault, or social stressors may trigger psychosis.
  • Substance use
  • Physical Illness or injury – Because schizophrenia occurs when the brain experiences chemical changes, traumatic brain injuries, brain tumors, strokes, or other brain diseases may increase risk of psychosis

After discussing the definitions and etiologies of bipolar disorder and psychosis, Tu and I facilitated a large group discussion about each mental illness and how each has affected our lives. The Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal parishioners and workshop participants were engaged and active during the large group discussion. The conversation, similar to our previous workshop topics, continued after the completion of the

“Wellness In Mind’s” last workshop will be on Sunday, June 4th at the Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal church in Daly City. We will be covering Intellectual Disabilities and a general summary of all of the topic’s we’ve covered along with discussing local resources. Please join us!

IMG_7604.JPGWritten by: Crystal Faith Cajilog, MA  & Tu Nguyen Miller, MFT