The support group for Asian Americans uses the theater to deal with COVID

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A culturally based online peer support group that uses theater and other creative outlets is helping Asian Americans cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

The results of the qualitative study suggest that the program could be a model to support the mental health of other minority community groups during the COVID pandemic and beyond, say researchers at the Center for Children’s Studies at the Faculty of Medicine. of Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.

The Yale Compassionate Home, Action Together (CHATogether) group was created to promote emotional well-being among young Asian Americans, young adults, and their families.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it expanded its purpose to serve as a support group for COVID-19. By spreading social media, CHATogether encourages members to tackle COVID-19 through productive and creative means.

“We are a community education program that serves Asian American families,” said Eunice Yuen, MD, a doctor, founder and director of the program, which is part of the Center for Child Studies at Yale University School of Medicine. , New Haven, Connecticut.

“We started when the pandemic started and we realized the unique emotional distress shared among Asian American families, such as family conflicts and xenophobic attacks,” Yuen said.

He spoke about the program at the 2021 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) virtual.

Drawings, role-playing games

CHATogether groups consist of people with similar experiences and challenges who support each other through weekly online group meetings, he explained.

Group members work together to create family conflict scenarios and role-playing dialogues on topics amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as intercultural challenges among Asian Americans, academic expectations in home schooling, and Black Lives Matter conflicts, and LGBTQ in Asian families. .

Group members create schemes that build on their personal experiences and allow them to work through their own internal conflicts and gain a sense of agency, Yuen said.

“CHATogether is really the interface of mental health, art and theater, and we’re trying to create a vehicle that can be a fun way for people to talk about mental health, especially for Asian American families,” Yuen said. .

Preliminary results from a focus group with 10 CHATogether members who have joined the program since the pandemic began identified four main ways in which the program has had a positive impact on participants ’mental health and well-being:

  • It provides a safe and supportive environment, strengthens bonds between members, and increases a sense of belonging, thus fostering engagement.

  • Provides structural consistency / stability through regular meetings and consistent group functions. Weekly meetings provide a sense of control and hope amid uncertainty during periods of refuge.

  • By adapting the group to virtual platforms, group members experience the inherent strengths of a growth mindset and cognitive flexibility when faced with challenges.

  • It supports healthy coping skills through sublimation and altruism.

Looking to the future, Yuen said, the team plans to investigate the validity and effectiveness of this model and expand the group to include other minorities, school educators and medical education for medical students.

Commenting on the program, he briefed moderator Jeffrey Borenstein, MD, president and CEO of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and editor-in-chief of Psychiatric news, described the initiative as a “great project that serves as a model that can be used not only for Asian Americans, but for other groups.

“I think the key is the cultural sensitivity that we really need to take into account and the cultural differences between people in order to attract them and help them help. I think this program does it really well,” he said. dir Borenstein.

The work was supported by the APA Substance abuse and the Mental Health Services Fellowship, which provides a one-year fellowship to psychiatric residents committed to addressing minority mental health psychiatric issues. Yuen and Borenstein have not revealed any relevant financial relationship.

Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2021: Presented May 1, 2021.

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