July is nationally recognized as Minority Mental Health Month. It’s a month dedicated to talking about the stigmas placed on mental health in some cultures.
KRBD’s Raegan Miller spoke to some Alaska residents about their own stories, and what communities can do to raise awareness.
Supanika Ordonez lives in Juneau. She was diagnosed with PTSD in 2020. It took about nine months to get there.
She attributes some of that to her upbringing in an Asian and Hispanic household.
“And I don’t know if it’s just the culture or what, but I think I was always just kind of raised that you know, you take care of your own problems,” she said. “Asking for help is weakness.”
She thinks it’s the stigma around mental health that makes people afraid to seek help. That was the case for her.
“I think my dad especially felt like, you know, since he wasn’t white, he was held to, like, a higher standard than others,” she said. “And so he kind of transferred it to us kids, where we were kind of held to higher standards than others. And so my parents were very strict.”
By talking with others experiencing their own struggles, Ordonez found her voice and made connections. She was able to make sense of her past experiences and relationships.
“Just finding my voice then helped me kind of realize, like, ‘Oh, I need to get help, I need to do something to change, kind of like, this cycle I’ve been on,’” she said.
Just talking can help. But that’s not always as easy as it seems.
She explained her aunt committed suicide when she was a teenager. But it wasn’t something that was really talked about in the family.
“We didn’t tend to talk about anything bad,” Ordonez said.
Alma Manabat Parker can relate to Ordonez’s story. She is the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition’s Health Equity Coordinator. And she’s also Filipina.
“Many of the family members that I grew up around, it was more of an issue of trying to take care of it in the family, and not bring shame or any disrespect to the family name,” she said.
Parker and others with the Wellness Coalition are working on creating outreach programs to decrease the stigma placed on seeking help. She said that includes a podcast, with episodes focused on mental health.
“And we hope that it opens the door to conversations and a safe space again,” Parker said.
Corle (COR-Lay) LaForce is a psychotherapist in Juneau. She’s also bisexual and a woman of color.
She said therapists who don’t belong to a marginalized group can minimize microaggressions or traumatic racial experiences and do harm if they don’t understand racism.
“And that feels very lonely as a person of color,” LaForce said.
LaForce explained it’s very validating when she works with a minority client who is trying to address issues of race.
“There’s this trust that I get it, I see it, it’s real,” LaForce said. “And I watch my clients of color, like, settle knowing that they’re being believed. Knowing that their experience is being seen as real in my eyes.”
Ketchikan residents can seek help through Ketchikan’s Wellness Coalition at ktnkwc.org. Nationally, more resources can be found at minority health.hhs.gov.
Raegan Miller is a Report for America corps member for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at KRBD.org/donate.