Part 3 – Emily’s Story: Finding Hope in Support Groups
By Emily Wu Truong
In honor of July as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Guest Blogger Emily Wu Truong, who received a fellowship from the Entertainment Industries Council’s Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, created this three-part series on Asian American mental health. This is the third article of the three-part series about perfectionism and mental health.
While seeking affordable means to help myself, I was privileged to meet Dr. Eliza Noh, Cal State Fullerton Associate Professor specializing in Asian American suicidology. She reported that having a strong support network was a common theme among her interviews with Asian American women who had attempted suicide. After I opened up to her about my depression, she encouraged I work on building my support network, and I took her advice to heart.
For myself, I found hope when I learned about the world of support groups. The groups I attended were from Recovery International, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Asian Coalition, and Kaiser Permanente’s Depression and Anxiety group therapy.
As I attended these groups, I found myself feeling relieved and far from isolation because I saw that I was not alone. These groups were safe places where I could openly share my experiences of depression without shame. Group members commended me for having the courage to share. We learned techniques to become more cognizant of our own thoughts, feelings, and bodily reactions in response to circumstances that were out of my control. I became more self-aware of my daily thought patterns and began to develop more attitudes of gratitude. To top it all off, fees to attend these meetings were free or nominal! Overall, the more I attended these meetings, the quality of my life improved. They reinforced the messages of hope where helplessness is not hopelessness, and emotional healing is possible.
Another mental health advocate I met was Ms. Libby Hartigan from SHARE (Self-Help And Recovery Exchange), and she provided me with a list of self-help groups. When Ms. Hartigan presented at an Asian Coalition meeting, she stated how, “Research indicates that self-help support group participation reduces re-hospitalization of mental health consumers by 50%, reduces the amount of medication needed and reduces family stress.” She also informed us about LACDMH Service Area 3’s API Working Group, whose mission is to raise awareness about mental health issues in the San Gabriel Valley. At the meeting, Ms. Hartigan shared, “While Asians and Pacific Islanders are the least likely of any ethnic group to take advantage of mental health services, we want to let them know that community support is available. Although the cultural philosophies of the Confucian, collectivist tradition discourage open displays of emotions, our hope is that these families can find support in a community network that is willing to help them with their life struggles and mental health crises.”
I too share the same sentiment as Ms. Hartigan and hope that those struggling in silence with their own mental health can find comfort and hope in knowing that nonjudgmental support groups exist. From personal experience, I can say that support groups and group therapy have made a tremendous impact on my life, and I certainly hope they can help others to find this type of support in knowing that they are not alone.
As I often say in my speaking engagements, “With help, there is hope.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Emily Wu Truong is a Motivational Speaker for Mental Health Awareness, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology & Social Behavior from UC Irvine. As an outspoken advocate, Emily was elected as Chair of the Asian Coalition and serves on the Client & Family Leadership Committee for the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) in Sacramento. As a motivational speaker, Emily has been invited to speak at USC, UCLA, UC Irvine, & Raytheon. She is best known for her speeches “Believing in Me: My Journey to Finding My Self-Worth” and “Breaking Down the Walls of Perfectionism.” In March 2015, in recognition of March as Women’s History Month, Emily was selected for the 2015 Woman of the Year Award for Senator Ed Hernandez’s 22nd Senate District. Emily has become a role model, demonstrating self-initiative and an indomitable will, delivering her message that with help, there is hope.