Bay Area organization leads way in culturally responsive care

Amidst attacks against AAPI elders, AACI's Dr. Nira Singh leads culturally sensitive mental health services to help community members heal.

Video Transcript

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DR. NIRA SINGH: Our agencies, our government, the people who work for us-- they should also speak our language.

I am a second generation South Asian daughter of immigrants who came here from India. I say that I was made in India, born in the USA. Watching my parents come over and their strength and courage and determination of being in a new country with very little resources, they really instilled in us that the importance of helping others. I decided to pursue psychology. Actually, I studied psychology and dance as an undergrad. I think that really started my journey about figuring out about culturally sensitive, linguistically appropriate services.

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Anti-Asian hate and violence is not new. It has been really upsetting. It's been hard to process. It's been really important to support in our clinical supervision to really give them a bunch of different resources and support, and to really show them that they're not alone, that there's a community out there that cares for them.

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AACI was founded in 1973 by a group of 12 community advocates to really advocate for services for Southeast Asian refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam. Today, we're one of the largest community based organizations in Santa Clara County, really serving underserved and marginalized populations. Our services are trauma informed and client centered, and culturally responsive. Being a mental health ally means really recognizing that mental health is a part of health and wellness, and just as we don't expect somebody with a broken arm to just get over it, somebody that's really suffering with their mental health deserves the support and care that they need.

We're able to provide our array of services, counseling, engaging folks in sort of what they need and where they're at. It's so important that our care team is reflective of the communities that we serve. So we're a very diverse team. We speak over 40 languages. Understanding what it's like to be newly arrived to this country and not know what the resources are. So it's hard enough for anyone to just navigate the health care system, but to have that coordinated care and that support is so important.

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You know, there's no one path to wellness. Everyone's really different in their ability to talk about their thoughts and feelings. For me personally, dance has been so wonderful in that self-expression, but also it was a connection to my culture, as well. So I grew up learning Indian folk and classical dance, and just like the universality of movement. There's something about that community of movement that's so important and freeing.

We're so lucky to be able to provide things like art therapy through our wellness classes to provide different kinds of movement and poetry and all kinds of outlets for folks to heal. We also have our elder storytelling program, which is another creative way to engage folks. Talking stories is something that a lot of cultures have, so by talking stories and telling their own story is another way to healing.

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This work is so much about relationships, whether it's relationships with the community members that we serve. With each other as providers, we work really collaboratively to really advocate for all of our marginalized and underserved population. It's such an honor to get to do that.

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