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St. Louis Asian support groups offer mental health resources after deadly California shootings

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Min Liu of the Asian American Civic Scholars holds a battery-powered candle on Tuesday during a rally in response to mass shootings in California that targeted the Asian community.

In light of the deadly California shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, the Missouri Asian American Youth Foundation will soon host bilingual healing circles in English and Mandarin and other Asian languages.

The youth foundation announced at a rally Tuesday in downtown St. Louis that it would provide access to therapy and other mental health resources.

“Asian Americans, like all people, have mental health issues, but we tend not to speak about it,” said Dawen Gao, the foundation’s program director. “Even when we want to talk to someone, the resources aren’t there. So we wanted to put up something.”

So far in 2023, 69 people have been killed in 39 mass shootings in the United States, 18 of them since Saturday in the California attacks.

Gao, a graduate student at Washington University in the Brown School for social work, was shocked by the violence. It made her question whether the United States is safe for Chinese students who want to study here.

“The U.S. is viewed as a place where people pursue something, but now it's adding up more barriers making that decision harder to move here,” Gao said.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Caroline Fan, president of the Missouri Asian American Youth Foundation, speaks Tuesday during a press conference.

Not only is there a major need for access to therapy in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and other Asian languages, but there is a lack of representation in therapists who could understand the Asian American experience, said Caroline Fan, the youth foundation’s founder and president.

“20 to 30 Chinese international social workers graduate from the Brown School every year and can’t find jobs,” Fan said. “We firmly believe that people who know our community and who have this lived experience are the best equipped to empathize."

At the rally, Fan was emotional as she described the struggles of working with lawmakers and community leaders to implement gun-safety policies and fund access to mental health resources.

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Brian Munoz
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St. Louis Public Radio
Community leaders, elected officials and their representatives listen to remarks on Tuesday during a press conference in response to mass shootings in California.

Fan said it would be helpful for policymakers to acknowledge the mental health concerns of members of the Asian, Asian American and other communities of color who have been suffering, some without access to mental health providers who speak their language.

“We have been desperately asking our government officials for help and support,” she said. “But there is a perception internally and outside the Asian community that we do not have these problems and do not have a need for therapy.”

The Missouri Asian American Youth Foundation will collaborate with the Brown School to provide resources to the community. The foundation will work with everyone, but a strong focus will be on elders.

“We want to have a circle specifically for our elders because there is intergenerational trauma, and no one talks about it,” Fan said.

Britny Cordera is a poet and journalist based in St. Louis and is currently serving as a newsroom intern at St. Louis Public Radio.

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