ABHMS partners with Asian American Christian Collaborative to address mental health and well-being

VALLEY FORGE, PA (05/15/2024)—As May is both Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, many organizations across the United States acknowledge the importance of mental health and well-being among AAPI populations. Among them are the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, Mental Health America, and Institute for Diversity and Health Equity.

This focus is not coincidental. Compared to previous generations, Gen Z faces higher levels of stress, anxiety and loneliness. The alarming fact that AAPI young people die by suicide at the greatest rates of any racial or ethnic group in the U.S. underscores the seriousness of the mental health epidemic that exists within the AAPI community, particularly among young people.

Sean Kong photo courtesy of Unsplash

Sean Kong photo courtesy of Unsplash

Recognizing a host of challenges AAPI communities seek to overcome, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) has partnered with the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC) to support Project Flourish: “Cultivating Mental Health in AAPI Churches and Discipleship Ministries.”

Promoting churches as “beacons of hope, healing, and transformation,” Project Flourish is just one piece of a larger AACC Mental Health Initiative, which aims to serve as a hub where people can access resources for counseling and therapy, spiritual direction and group care for Asian American Christians. The initiative also seeks to provide resources and training for ministry leaders navigating mental health in their own contexts through training, webinars, podcasts, articles and other mediums. Ultimately, the initiative’s goal is for Asian American Christians to find holistic health so they can flourish in their communities as image bearers of God.

“Since its inception, AACC has been driven by a passion for advocacy, which extends far beyond conventional perceptions,” said Joe Jensen, director of strategy and partnerships at AACC. “Giving voice to the Asian American Christian experience is a critically important form of advocacy. We acknowledge the profound impact of mental health on Asian American Christians, particularly concerning the racial trauma endured by numerous generations. Over the past five to ten  years, instances of racism and the consequent trauma have been significant.”

Jensen stressed that the integration of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health is vital; therefore, racial and ethnic identity cannot be separated from one’s spiritual identity. “We’ve come to recognize that in our pursuit to assist Asian Americans in discovering their identity in Christ comprehensively, addressing the crucial issue of mental health within the Asian American Christian community is essential if we are to fulfill God’s calling effectively. This necessitates a thorough exploration and commitment to tackling this significant challenge head-on.”

Project Flourish will address the growing need in AAPI churches and ministries to successfully integrate mental health into discipleship practices for the well-being of congregations. It will pay special attention to the disproportionately affected Gen Z population (individuals born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s). The Flourish Webinar Series, featuring Asian American mental health professionals and ministry leaders, covers a range of topics, including combating loneliness, addressing burnout, healing from racial trauma and soul care. “We’ve observed the emergence of discussions surrounding the intersection of mental health and faith, as well as those exploring the relationship between Asian American identity and mental health,” said Jessica Cheng, AACC’s Mental Health Initiative coordinator. “However, a significant gap remains in the conversation at the crossroads of faith, mental health and racial ethnic identity. Consequently, we often find ourselves excluded from this critically important dialogue.”

Cheng explains: “In the mental health sphere, we’ve noticed a distinct absence of our voices addressing these issues. It’s evident that we’re not prominent figures in these discussions. Therefore, the core motivation behind initiatives like the webinars is to bridge this significant gap and become visible participants in these conversations. Our aim is to spotlight the Asian American Christian community engaging in dialogue about these issues, which is currently lacking.”

In addition to proudly supporting this vision for holistic health, well-being and flourishing of Asian American Christians, ABHMS offers the three-part webinar series Love the Lord with All Your Mind, which centers on fostering mental health and well-being among Asian Americans. The series is available through the ABHMS Center for Continuous Learning.

To learn more about intercultural ministries work at ABHMS, visit abhms.org.