by Ronnie Estoque
Within the Filipino community, mental health is a topic that is often not discussed in families and other social spheres. API Chaya’s FYRE (Filipino Youth Reunite to Elevate) program plans to continue to work on destigmatizing mental health in the local community by offering “Grief Support Gatherings” for King County Filipino youth (ages 12–24) via Zoom on July 13, July 27, Aug. 10, and Aug. 24 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“We’re really wanting to make space for intergenerational healing, intergenerational community organizing, and what we’ve learned is that youth can be, you know, an important bridge across generations,” Nikki Caintic of API Chaya said.
API Chaya is a nonprofit organization that, among other programs, focuses on a violence prevention curriculum. Their curriculum emphasizes building intentional relationships centered around pro-people values, leadership development, and community organizing. They believe that youth empowerment is pivotal in violence prevention within the community.
FYRE was launched in 2015 in response to violence within the Filipino community and has offered program participants a space for education, creation, safety, healing, and leadership development. From January to April of this year, students at Kentwood High School were provided grief support. A Filipino family in the South Seattle community experienced a homicide, after which grief support was requested and led the organization to offer more community spaces digitally. The upcoming Grief Support Gatherings are made possible through a collaboration between API Chaya’s FYRE, Seattle Children’s Hospital Journey Program, and the Safe Crossings Foundation.
“I’m all about destigmatizing mental health in our community. And a huge part of that, of course, is having these offerings and making it available to people,” Evalynn Romano of API Chaya said. Romano helped facilitate several grief groups that started last November, and is currently working towards becoming a community therapist after finishing her Master of Social Work at the University of Washington.
Data also points to the dire need of more resources for Filipino youth. An article published by NBC News last month discusses how Filipino Americans have experienced and battled significant mental health challenges largely due to the pandemic.
According to the article, the UC Davis Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies conducted a “Filipinx Count Survey” during the first half of 2020, which collected data from around 1,000 participants. The survey showed that around half of those respondents reported mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and other symptoms.
“When I think about the importance of [Grief Support Gatherings], it’s really building intentional connection with one another, to know that and to acknowledge the reality that grief, death — it’s all part of life,” Caintic said.
One of API Chaya’s community organizing program managers, Derek Dizon, worked alongside Romano to collaborate with the Seattle Children’s Hospital Journey Program to provide grief counseling to youth in the community. FYRE leaders, Imee Pajimula and Caintic, then connected with Dizon and Romano to collaborate on organizing the Grief Support Gatherings. This year, API Chaya’s 26th annual vigil was held virtually, in response to pandemic restrictions. Their theme was “Kapwa: Remembering the Self, Remembering Each Other.” They held four digital sessions, with various community leaders dialoguing about how grief moves and transforms our communities.
“For myself, I know this is something that I would have really, really loved as I was growing up, and it wasn’t until, you know, later now, where I realized the importance of mental health,” Caintic said. “It’s important that we can be skilled in knowing how to move with and through grief, versus just ignoring it.”
Editors’ Note: A previous version of this article referred to Evalynn Romano as “Evalyn.” This article was updated on 7/9/2021 with the correct spelling.
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