“从新冠爆发以来，人们就不愿意出门，现在针对亚裔的暴力事件，更让大家觉得不安，加上现在新冠感染数字上升，老人们仍然是高危人群，是最弱势的人群。” 位于华埠的汉密尔顿麦迪逊服务中心的执行总监 Isabel Ching说，最近中心在布鲁克林分部的亚裔耆老中进行的一个调查显示，许多老人希望能够接受到精神健康的医疗服务，但却不知如何寻找资源。“许多老人意识到自己精神状况不佳，希望获得精神健康服务，但却没有资源。他们想找人谈谈，想看精神健康医生，但是没有渠道，没有一个方便合适的场所，他们也害怕坐地铁，所以可能现在对于精神健康的污名化少了些，但同时，缺乏资源和渠道成了大问题。”
“过去在韩裔社区，精神疾病是可耻的，但是从去年开始，很多韩裔社区特别是老年群体愿意敞开心扉，他们愿意和我们的精神健康医生分享自己的问题。” Myoungmi Kim, 韩裔社区服务中心（KCS）执行总监坦言，过去对于精神疾病的污名化，让精神健康项目在亚裔社区难以推行，但如今，许多人意识到精神健康的重要性，社区组织希望提供这方面的服务，却有心无力：“坦白说，精神健康门诊的服务人员，他们的工资比我们大部分其他员工高得多，从运营角度，我们有很多年都在挣扎要不要维持这个服务。”
一方面，要支付给精神健康医护人员高于一般员工的工资，给社区组织带来了不小的压力，另一方面，相对大医院，社区组织所能提供的工资福利，又很难吸引到愿意长期扎根社区、服务耆老的精神健康专业人士。作为医生， Lilya Berns，汉密尔顿麦迪逊服务中心行为健康服务部门助理总监也说出社区组织运营精神健康项目的困境：“因为我们是面向社区，服务耆老的，因此更难招聘医生，我们要和大的医疗组织竞争人才，实在太难了。”
去年，在美国老年学会，代际记者联盟赞助下，我们推出系列特别节目，关注亚裔老人的精神健康。今年，美国老年学会，代际记者联盟与RFF老年基金会 (The Gerontological Society of America, the Journalists Network on Generations and RFF Foundation for Aging)再次支持回访报道，了解后疫情时期，社区组织提供给亚裔老人精神健康方面的资源，守护我们的精神健康。
Community organizations actively launch mental health projects
to help Asian elderly get out of the haze
During the past two years of the Pandemic, New York City has experienced several waves of COVID infections, city lockdown, and economic downturns. And the Asian-Americans who live in New York City were severely impact by the Pandemic and later on, the discrimination against Asians. As people gradually recovering from the Pandemic, Senior Centers also started to restore its services, as well as launch new programs related to mental health, to help Asian seniors rebuild their normal lives and reconnect to the society.
“The KCS mental health clinic has continue to experience the same difficulties, clients continue to prefer to be seen online. ”Yuna Youn, Assistant Director of the Mental Health Clinic of the Korean Community Service Center (KCS), said that although many people are gradually returning to normal, the elderly are still under mental pressure. COVID and the feeling of unsafe locked the elderly in their house. ”The issues that are impacting the community are still the same, you know, people being exhausted. So there is additional trauma from that.”
“Since COVID people are still afraid to still come out because of the anti-Asian incidents. Not feeling safe. Plus the fact that the uptack is, again, and seniors are still at risk at the highest risk.” Hamilton-Madison House Isabel Ching, Executive Director of the Hamilton-Madison House located in Chinatown, said they conducted a survey about Depression, Anxiety and Addiction for Asian Seniors in the service centers in Brooklyn, and the results are alarming.“So we just recently did an anxiety, depression and additions survey in Brooklyn, what we saw is a bit alarming. We saw seniors wanted to get mental health services but don’t have access to mental health services. They said we would like to talk to someone, we want mental health services, but no access. They don't have a place that would be convenient for them. They're afraid to get on the subway. So not so much stigma, but more access is a big problem.”
“In Korean Community, especially mental illness, is kind of a shame. But since the last year, so many Korean community, especially elderly, open their hearts. They want to share their illness with our mental health clinicians.” Myoungmi Kim, President and Executive Chief Officer of the Korean Community Service Center (KCS) admits that it used to be hard to run the mental health program because of the stigma, but now, more and more members are seeking mental health services, however, the center still struggling to provide: “Mental Health Clinic staffs, the salary, very frankly, is higher than the numerous staffs, operating wise, we’ve been struggling for many years if we should keep the services. ”
On the one hand, it gives community organization a lot of pressure to pay higher salary for the mental health medical staff, on the other hand, there’s far from enough mental health professionals who are willing to stay rooted in the community and serve the elderly in a long-term. “Because we are specialized in servicing our community, it’s much harder to recruit, attract and also retain, we are for sure competing against big health system.” As a medical professional, Lilya Berns, Assistance Executive Director of Behavioral Health Services, Hamilton Madison House talked about the difficulties in running a community health program.
Despite the difficulties, community organizations that are still the best places for the elderly to get support. “A lot of people have been feeling difficulties to navigate on their own, and feeling out of control. And that is causing depression, anxiety and stress. ”Yuna Youn pointed out that senior centers, where the elderly can get life support is the key to rebuild their mental health. “Having a sense of not being alone, and being part of the support network is really healing for people.”
“We just launched a new program, it’s called connect. And it is a hybrid model of clinic plus community outreach, it is very unique, we are one of nine organizations to work with the city to pilot this project.” Lilya Berns looks forward to this project, which can maximize the integration of professional medical care and community services, to bring convenient and feasible mental health support to the elderly. In addition to special programs, the senior center also provides culturally relevant and relaxing activities for the elderly in various aspects, and as Yuna said, mental health diagnosis and services can also be carried out during the period. “So we would go to the senior center with assessments and we partner with them to get a better sense of what people might need. And also as a way to send out the message that, you know, there is a mental health clinic, if you want services based on assessment, based on these assessments, you can think about, you know, whether like where you are in terms of your mental health.A lot of times people do not realize how they feel until they see these results. And from those results, they can start thinking about, you know, what they want to do to take care of their mental health.”
Last year, we produced four episodes about Mental Health of Asian Seniors in the Pandemic. This year, sponsored by the Gerontological Society of America, the Journalists Network on Generations and RFF Foundation for Aging, we again revisited the senior centers we’ve been, learning about the effort they made to recover. Working with the Gerontological Society of America, the Journalists Network on Generations and RFF Foundation for Aging, we hope to promote the mental health while call for more attention to the equal access to the mental health resources.