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Meet Jedidiah Chun and Christopher Vo of Asian Mental Health Collective

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jedidiah Chun and Christopher Vo.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Jed: To preface, we’re both mental health therapists. I am based out of San Gabriel, CA and Chris, Houston, TX. While our journeys started out in different places, we ultimately came together to work towards a common goal: destigmatizing mental health within Asian communities.

Counseling has always been a part of my life. My parents both worked in helping professions–my mom as a Christian marriage counselor and my dad as a pastor. Growing up, I spent some time observing their interactions with people and I gradually developed an understanding that human connection can lead to healing. This was an understanding that was later reinforced in my graduate school training. It struck me early on that personal issues often stemmed from the breakdown of relationships, particularly familial ones. I wholeheartedly believe that societal change starts with individual families, and while such families may exist within broken systems, they do not have to perpetuate them. This belief has inspired me to work in community mental health as well as the foster care system. Currently, I work in private practice, treating individuals and immigrant families.

Chris: I’ve wanted to be a therapist pretty early on. Growing up, I was never really allowed a safe space to talk about my feelings. Being able to properly express yourself is really important to the development process. I attribute a lot of that to the Asian concepts of saving face and stoicism. To this day, I think I’ve only told my parents I love them once or twice. I wanted to become a therapist for a lot of different reasons, but a big reason was to hopefully prevent other generations from having to grow up like this.

I’ve worked with a large variety of clients; starting at a non-profit that focused on underprivileged communities, a juvenile detention facility focusing on gang violence and sexual trauma, and currently I work in a private practice that predominantly works with couples, but also gets individuals from all walks of life.

In 2018, Jed and I met in the Facebook group Subtle Asian Mental Health. We were inspired by the conversations that the space offered around Asian identity and mental health. It was amazing to see many members of the Asian community navigating their emotions and vulnerability for the first time. As therapists, we saw an opportunity to offer our guidance for a growing community that was both compassionate and struggling. While Jed and I watched the group reach thousands of people, we recognized another opportunity to provide the same support across other mediums. This idea is what birthed the Asian Mental Health Collective.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Thankfully, we’ve had many diligent and amazing volunteers and supporters throughout this whole process. Some of the biggest challenges that we’ve faced have come down to balancing our own lives and mental health with that of the community. Throughout this journey, we’ve continued to work normal day jobs. As therapists, we’re accustomed to dealing with issues and conversations that require a lot of emotional presence and empathy. However, there is an added layer of stress when compounded with the responsibilities that come with managing a quickly growing group and meeting the needs of the community. Additionally, we’ve had our own share of growing pains ranging from interpersonal to systemic. We are thankful that our volunteers and community have been so diligent in maintaining the supportive and non-judgmental culture that we espouse.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Asian Mental Health Collective – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
Fundamentally, we’re a mental health advocacy organization focused on destigmatizing mental health within Asian communities. Today, we’re most known for our Facebook group, Subtle Asian Mental Health. With over 44k members, we can confidently say we’re the most vibrant mental health support community for Asians on Facebook. Within Subtle Asian Mental Health, we offer a robust listening program to support members who are in distress as well as access to virtual mental health-related events that we also live stream within the group.

Another project that we’re working on is our Asian Mental Health Professionals group which is designed to help connect and support Asian mental health providers and graduate students interested in pursuing a career in the field. We currently host a weekly support group as well as professionally led workshops aimed at educating members on various mental health topics.

To extend our reach beyond our digital platform, our WAVES program creates safe and supportive localized community groups to tackle mental health issues on-the-ground. However, due to COVID, we’re playing it safe by hosting virtual gatherings.

Lastly, we’re hoping to make mental health information more accessible through our podcast, the Mental Health Mukbang. The podcast is hosted by four mental health professionals who discuss issues encompassing Asian mental health while enjoying delicious food.

As the organization grows, we’d like to become a point of reference for Asian mental health community and resources. We aspire to make mental health easily accessible, approachable, and available for Asian communities worldwide.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
Right now, we’re very close to finalizing our 501c3 status, which we are eagerly awaiting. In the long term, we’re looking to expand the number of WAVES chapters, create a more robust professional network, and establish a consistent audience for our podcast. There are also a number of other projects that we have in the works right now, but we’re not quite ready to share those with the world yet. Ultimately we’re hoping that people will begin to be able to take control of their mental health and that collectively, we can overcome our challenges and unite in our support for one another and our community.

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