On behalf of the Filipino Mental Health Initiative of San Mateo County, we first want to acknowledge and honor the eight victims murdered, as a result of Anti-Asian racism and violence on March 16, 2021, in Atlanta, Georgia. Our hearts go out to all the families and loved ones left behind and countless others who have been affected by these violent attacks.

While we represent a mental health initiative, we also come here as mothers, fathers, friends, sons, daughters, siblings, and concerned community members. We are exhausted and tired of hearing of the increased violence against our AAPI people and our broader BIPOC communities. Unfortunately, this is not new: this has been happening for centuries, here on stolen land, which can bring up a flurry of feelings ranging from powerlessness, grief, anger, and fear. We fear what could possibly happen to our parents or our elders while they’re at a grocery store—or fear threats to our families’ safety just going to a local park.

If you are experiencing these thoughts and feelings, you are not alone. Our hope is that you try to hold grace for yourself and others—to recognize that there is no right way to feel right now. In fact, we are experiencing collective trauma: racial trauma on both an individual and communal level. While this is a tremendously challenging time, this has opened up opportunities to be in solidarity with one another, heal together and strengthen community care practices. This could look like checking in with your loved ones or reaching out to attend a community healing space. Considering the emotional labor and potential trauma responses one may be experiencing, proactive healing could also mean simply taking a pause through restorative rest. This rest and recovery is essential to sustain forward movement.

It’s time we collectively break the silence, reclaim our voice, and work more intentionally on dismantling these systems of oppression built upon white supremacy that were designed to keep us quiet and cause harm—not only to our AAPI communities but to our brown and black siblings, as well. We see you. We feel you.

Racism has had a direct impact on our communities’ mental health and wellness, and will continue to do so if we do not raise our consciousness of the need for social and systemic change. FMHI-SMC is committed in solidarity with you all—our fellow AAPIs, BIPOC siblings, and allies to continue fighting against racism. In the name of justice and equity, we pledge our dedication to destigmatizing mental health and co-creating an anti-racist community.  

We would like to share some resources FMHI-SMC has curated that provides helpful information: https://tinyurl.com/healing4aapi. This is a live page which will be continuously updated and we invite you to help us add to this resource list, which includes how to report racism related violence or incidents and what legal supports are available, mental health/wellness resources, educational trainings and workshops like bystander interventions, and links to community spaces and events that promote solidarity in the fight to combat racism and violence against our AAPI folx, as well as our broader BIPOC communities.

Together we stand, together we fight, and together we heal and support each other!

In Kapwa,
Stephanie Balon & Christi Morales-Kumasawa
FMHI-SMC Co-chairs

California Statewide Mental Health Commission Approves Multi-Million Dollar Grant for Future Filipina/x/o Social Enterprise Center

September 30, 2020

Press Contact:
Christi Morales-Kumasawa
FMHI-SMC Co-chair

California Statewide Mental Health Commission Approves Multi-Million Dollar Grant for Future Filipina/x/o Social Enterprise Center

​(Daly City, CA) — The Filipino Mental Health Initiative of San Mateo County (FMHI-SMC) is celebrating a huge victory, after receiving unanimous approval for its proposal to create the first Filipina/x/o Social Enterprise Cultural Center of its kind in North San Mateo County. The approval includes $2.6 million dollars in seed money towards creation of the center. The Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) voted to approve this during a recent virtual public hearing on August 27.

The center aims to provide culturally relevant mental health and wellness services for the Filipinx community, while also serving as an intergenerational gathering space. The core program is designed for youth, ages 16-24, and would provide workforce development training, leadership skills, as well as cultural identity and mental health education.

FMHI-SMC Co-chair Stephanie Balon gave a presentation outlining the programming and potential benefits for the Filipinx community, which has historically underutilized mental health services despite research showing a high incidence rate of depression and suicidal ideation — especially among Filipina youth. Community members also provided emotionally-moving testimonies about why this center is needed.

“We are so incredibly grateful and humbled by all the volunteers, staff, and community who invested an immense amount of time and energy to see this come to fruition,” said Balon.

This grant is part of the Mental Health Services Act’s Innovation Funding Program, which is reserved for proposals that feature new approaches to improve mental health in underserved communities.

FMHI-SMC’s proposal was reportedly chosen for its holistic approach to mental health and its social enterprise component — a cafe in which revenue from this will fund the center’s programming. The group began soliciting stakeholder and community input for the proposal in the summer of 2018, but the dream to create a North San Mateo County Filipina/x/o center with wellness in mind is more than a decade in the making.

“To have this opportunity to co-create a culturally affirming and intergenerationally engaging space is a huge win within itself: it was built with the intention to be for the people and by the people,” remarked Balon about engaging the community in the planning process. “It’s more than a physical space but a symbol of our heritage. Something to say our mental health and wellness matters—that OUR stories matter.”

FMHI-SMC worked closely with Doris Estremera, the MHSA Manager from San Mateo County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and FMHI-SMC’s advisory group to finalize the proposal. There were also many political and community leaders, as well as key stakeholders who provided guidance and support during the two-year process that preceded the MHSOAC’s approval.

The next phase of the process includes identifying an oversight agency/non-profit, which could take several months, with the goal of opening the center any time between late next year to the earlier part of 2022.

About Filipino Mental Health Initiative of San Mateo County
Formally named the Filipino Mental Health Initiative, in 2006, it is a community collaborative that is part of the Health Equity Initiatives of the Office of Diversity and Equity. The group is made up of Filipina/x/o mental health providers, leaders, public officials, community members, students and other stakeholders — with the goal of improving mental health awareness and outreach in the community, as well as advocating for culturally relevant wellness services.