Steans Center > For Students > Graduate Fellowships > Steans Graduate Fellowship > Steans Graduate Fellows > Developed Mental/Emotional Health Teaching Module: Fiona-Sun

Developing Mental and Emotional Health Resources for Youth

Fiona Image
Mengxue (Fiona) Sun, Summer 2022 Fellow,​ 

Doctoral Program​ in​ Clinical Psychology (Clinical-Community Emphasis), College of Science and Health

Through the support of the Steans Graduate Fellowship, I partnered with Project: VISION (PV) as a Student Consultant during Summer 2022. PV is a non-profit youth development agency located in the Chicago Chinatown neighborhood. Their mission is to provide educational, professional, and personal tools to help youth develop their full potential. The clients that PV serves are Greater Chicago Chinatown residents, and 96% of which are first-generation Chinese immigrant families. The increased need of mental health education and services within the Chicago Chinatown community has become more urgent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to drastically increased Asian-hate incidents and rhetoric (Lee & Waters, 2021). In addition, both parents/caregivers and staff at PV have also observed increased behavioral and emotional difficulties in youth in recent years, especially since remote learning during the pandemic. As a result, PV initiated efforts to incorporate socio-emotional programming for youth and caregivers to contribute to improving youth's holistic growth. 

I began my partnership with PV in September 2021 when I developed mental/emotional health teaching modules to expand on the organization's existing programming. To expand on my previous work and PV's curriculum, PV and I identified several areas to focus on for the Steans Graduate Fellowship during the following Summer 2022. The initially identified goals were: 

1) help develop a flowchart tool to enhance the procedure of responding to mental health emergencies; 

2) strengthen the structure of the current mentoring and mental/emotional health curriculum; and 

3) expand on the existing mental/emotional health curriculum. 

Unfortunately, with multiple new staff onboarding at the beginning of the summer, a slow start on number #1 and #2 led me to heavily focus on the third goal for fellowship. I spent the first month of the summer meeting with new staff, inquiring about their observations and insight, and establishing my project objectives within the goal of expanding PV's socioemotional curriculum. I met with the Youth Coordinator, Parent Coordinator, and Case Manager regularly, and collaboratively we identified two specific objectives, one focused on youth and one focused on caregivers.

For youth, the Youth Coordinator and I discussed the importance of establishing a quick tool to help youth de-stress. Using my clinical knowledge and skills, I created an activity to help youth practice mindfulness skills by grounding through their five senses. Also, in anticipation of the October mentoring theme of time management, I created a second tool to help youth practice these skills when they engage in planning. For parents/caregivers, I focused on parent psychoeducation. The Case Manager and I agreed to develop a visual tool to differentiate roles of various youth psychosocial providers. Specifically, I created psychoeducational infographics for parents/caregivers at PV in English and Chinese. Related to parents, the Parent Coordinator and I discussed the benefits of conducting parent workshops on mental health and psychoeducation topics in the future. Subsequently, I created a brief survey to assess parents' interests and needs in these workshops. I analyzed the survey results and finalized the workshop topics with the Parent Coordinator. I will be working on creating and delivering these workshops in the future with the support of PV's grant.

This project contributes to decreasing social inequity in two ways. Firstly, the majority of students at PV are immigrant-origin youth who come from first-generation immigrant families. The extant literature suggests that ethnic minority youth experience more mental health problems than their White peers (Kim et al., 2018). This disparity could be due to factors related to racial discrimination and microaggressions, cultural identity confusions, intergenerational conflicts, and other contextual factors (Arora & Algios, 2019; Chen et al., 2021; Conger & Conger, 2002; Kim et al., 2018; Wang, Cramer, et al., 2019; Wang, Do, et al., 2019; Wang, Park, et al., 2021). Asian/Asian American youth in particular have shown significant mental health disparities (Heron, 2018; Huang et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2019; Qin et al., 2008). Although there is an urgent mental health need within immigrant-origin youth, accessible resources are scarce. Professional mental health services are often not accessible for ethnic minority youth due to many reasons, including high cost, limited availability, culturally insensitive care, and higher stigma toward mental health treatment (Collier et al., 2012; Cheng & Lo, 2022; Sharma et al., 2020). In addition, research suggests that Asian/Asian American youth are less likely to seek psychological help from adults (Sen, 2004). These factors contribute to inadequate care for Asian/Asian American youth; my projects and PV's curriculum contribute to meeting the mental health needs of youth and their families who face multifaceted barriers.

In addition, parents and caregivers of youth at PV are mostly first-generation immigrants from lower socioeconomic backgrounds where they do not have equitable access to health and mental healthcare. Youth's mental/emotional health can be heavily influenced by their families' knowledge and resources, which makes the projects focusing on parents/caregivers crucial in reducing mental healthcare disparities.​


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