On Strength In Unity (Project to mobilize Asian Men to Become Mental Health Leaders)

By Guest Blogger: Justin Chander


Strength in Unity is a project based on community research built on mobilizing Asian Men to become Mental health leaders. Although some research was funded into the Gay Bisexual and Trans (GBT) men Group, not enough research was put into us yet and thus funds were allocated to address and recruit GBT men from organizations like ASAAP (Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention) and ACAS (Asian Community AIDS Services). There were several groups that took place within the study. I was part of the community engagement and education (CEE) group. The groups all started in the spring. They took place over several weeks and were very insightful. Then we reconnected a few times a few months afterwards, and a few more months after that, and so on. In culmination, we connected with other groups that participated in the project in the first few reconnections and after that, with others who had participated as the GBT Group across the studies. Then we elected certain representatives to present at the Mental Health Summit. I, along with approximately ten others were selected to do so.

Strength In Unity was a great experience for us as GBT Asian Men, both South and East, to bring awareness to Asian men’s mental health and propose solutions to existing issues that plague us. Together we put together a presentation to discuss these things to an audience at the Asian Mental Health Summit. To prepare for it, we met up several times in order to organize our presentation. We eac
h contributed our parts to the final presentation. We worked out how the presentation would be done. It was done both through the PowerPoint media, oral presentation, engagement with the audience, and group discussion.

We discussed many issues including the lack of representation, lack of relatable media, lack of outreach, silence, as well as several other large ones. Then we proposed potential solutions to these things such as policy and research and more accessibility, time, money, effort, and space. We would also need partnerships at the table to in order to build our media representation. Then, like we did in our sessions together, we put up posters around the room representing each major topic that we discussed and had our attendees put a mark where they thought was the most important thing to work on was. Then we had a discussion about all these things in small groups, then in large groups. Our discussions culminated in us showing that funding was a key issue and partnerships both in the community and outside the community were some of the biggest challenges needed to come by in order to normalize mental health discussion and issues that affect us as GBT Asians in our lives and in the lives of many of our brothers.

It was amazing to see so many Asian men supporting mental health and trying to normalize it in our stigmatizing society and in addition, there were many others there who were supporting us. There were many groups there other than our GBT Group, such as a South Asian Men Group and a Chinese Men Group and all of varying ages. Many people had actually flown in from the other side of the country, which was quite interesting. It showed how big of a commitment there was from many sources there.

I was very proud to be a part of this as this is an initiative that I consider important to myself since it is absurd why mental health issues can’t be treated like physical health issues, because they also affect everyone. This is especially true for our communities, since we don’t talk about it much as Asian men. In addition, we face even more challenges as Queer Asian Men. Thus, it’s important to dismantle oppressive barriers that stymie us from hiking to higher levels and it’s something that I am committed to, not just as a social activist, but as a citizen of this planet.

Many presented throughout the day and it was very fascinating to listen to them and all the information they had to deliver. Many stakeholders were there in the audience to dictate where funding would go including Movember and many Canadian Mental Health Associations. It was a great reminder the mental health isn’t an individual problem, but a community problem and in its overall being is still being addressed inadequately. In conclusion, I would say that we were successful in delivering the message in our presentation in order to allocate more funds to us and our causes and standing up for each other. I definitely feel that brought the cause forward. Being there was participating in social activism. All of us there were committed to normalizing the discussion of mental health in our lives since it is such a critical part of all of us. This is only one more step forward and there are many more to take (and to keep taking).

Related article: http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/toronto/strength-in-unity-reduce-stigma-mental-health-issues-asian-community-1.3947910