“The world breaks everyone and afterwards, many are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
How do culture, values, and beliefs influence our responses to mental health and suicidality? How do people heal from traumatic events? How can we promote resiliency among immigrants and refugees? These and other important questions were discussed at the June 14th conference, “It Takes a Village: Suicide Prevention and Resiliency Among New Bostonians.” The second event in the “It Takes a Village” series focused on Boston’s four largest immigrant and refugee populations: Haitian, Dominican, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Experienced and knowledgeable speakers shared their personal and professional experiences, strategies, and ideas for supporting the health and well-being of immigrants and refugees.
Sponsored by the MA Department of Public Health Suicide Prevention Program, the Greater Boston Coalition for Suicide Prevention, and AdCare Educational Institute, Inc., this day-long conference addressed suicide prevention and resiliency among immigrants and refugees living in the Boston area. People from myriad backgrounds, experiences, and professions gathered with the common goals of improving collaborations and strengthening resiliency to reduce suicidal behavior, promote mental health, and better facilitate healing and resiliency among new Bostonians. To achieve these goals, the information shared helped participants better understand some of the experiences that immigrants and refugees go through so they can learn new tools to support their overall health.
“There is great power and healing in storytelling,” one speaker emphasized. Sharing our stories is an important way to break down the shame and stigma attached to mental health issues, which are common following trauma and stressors experienced after one moves to a new country, and open up the dialogue around mental health. One concept discussed was the importance of taking the time to learn about each person’s individual strengths and needs, and asking them about what their experiences mean to them. Speaking one’s own truth gives power, voice, and perspective, and allows the healing process to begin, both for the individual, as well as the community. To that end, there was a moving performance of the Breaking Silences Project, a dynamic play that educates and engages communities in open conversation about issues of mental health in Asian American women.
Immigrants and refugees bring so much to our communities, and when we as inviduals are stronger, our communities are stronger. As one speaker so succinctly shared, “We are all immigrants,” and it truly takes a village to build strong, supportive, and resilient communities.
For more information about the It Takes a Village Series, please email Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org.