Empowering Yourself and Your Community of Color

Wed, 07/28/2021 – 13:25

By Melanie Zhou

Growing up, I’d often view my mental health as a burden to others. I felt shame when reaching out for help and when I did reach out for help, I was often dismissed by family and community members for being “weak” or “sensitive.” As a child of immigrants, how could I focus on my mental health when my family was struggling to survive in hostile environments where minority experiences are invalidated and the world expects us to fail?  

To say the least, it feels overwhelming to make well-being a priority when coming from a community of color entrenched in deep stigma. The intergenerational traumas experienced by people of color have shaped rigid perceptions about mental health as a “personal responsibility” and about how it should be resolved. For example, Asian Americans deeply link personal success with familial success and underreport mental health conditions as compared to their white counterparts to “save face.” One study showed that 63% of Black people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. As a person of color, sometimes both the source of mental troubles and the barrier to getting help come from within a person’s own home. 

Although it may take a long time to recondition one’s cultural perspective of mental health, any person of color should be reminded that prioritizing their mental health is worthwhile. It is not shameful, it is not weak— it is courageous to take the first steps in preventing cycles of intergenerational trauma that further isolate you and members of your community. 

Here are some suggestions for how to keep upright in environments that make mental wellness a challenge: 

Get involved in activism
Oftentimes, mental health issues in a community of color are related to institutional discrimination, stereotypes, and racial stigma. Promoting social equity promotes health more broadly. Getting involved in activism can often provide people of color a sense of agency. There is a sense of healing that comes from positively impacting yourself and your community. If your community is less occupied with feelings of inequity, you can begin addressing the mental health stigmas within your community and open the dialogue about mental health.
Reach out to other POC outside your immediate community that you trust to share your story
Sometimes, the people closest to you are not the people who are the most supportive of your story. Connecting with other POC outside your immediate communities may help validate many of the emotions and experiences you were taught to suppress. Other POC will often understand certain themes of your story and provide enough separation from the stigma in your community to offer support. For example, when I started university at a predominantly white institution, I found mental health support with other immigrant children who often did not come from the same culture as me. In general, it is important to find those who will give you space to exist without judgment. Having someone listen to your story without being dismissive can do wonders for your mental health.
Develop a sense of pride in your heritage and use that to approach conversations about mental health in your community 
Older generations of color have most likely experienced instances of severe discriminatory treatment that have affected their health and their view of mental health. Asking older generations how they dealt with those feelings and how they envision people of color moving forward demonstrates respect for their lived experience. By initiating conversations about mental health from this common ground of respect, you can instill a sense of hope for tomorrow that will make members of your community more willing to change their perspective of mental health. Lack of mental health education often underpins the opinions of older persons of color. Engaging in a dialogue that acknowledges their past experiences and coping mechanisms while advocating for yours will create a safer space to move your community forward. 
When seeking professional help, make sure you ask the right questions so that your provider is culturally competent and supportive of your experiences
Reaching out for help is extremely difficult. When you encounter a therapist that does not understand your struggles, generalizes them, or offers advice that defies cultural traditions that seem strange to them but are normal to you, mental health can feel like a meaningless journey. Communicating your needs as a person of color seeking help is extremely important when finding the right mental health professional. Here are a few questions that should help in connecting with a meaningful provider that can empathize with your racial and ethnic background: 

How many patients have you treated from my background?
Do you have any specialized training in treating individuals of my racial and ethnic identity?
How do you think aspects of cultural identity may affect treatment and communication options with patients?

Your health matters. It is important. You are not alone on your journey. If you are struggling, there are organizations and online wellness spaces created by other people of color who will be there to support you. 

Melanie Zhou is a rising sophomore at Stanford University. Seeing a counselor 10 years after a traumatic childhood experience helped her recognize the need to destigmatize the mental health conversation. In the next few years, she hopes to see her nonprofit, Oasis, expand to schools across Colorado while partnering with mental health programs that are proven to help students. She serves as the Youth Commissioner on the Governor’s Commission on Community Service of Colorado.

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The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will house a “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center, that will provide case management, mental health community advocacy, and oversight from the M.I. Mother’s Keeper mental health advocates. 
The Capital City Emergency “Level II” Trauma & Wellness Center will offer patrons access to immediate coverage by general surgeons as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care.
Our goal is to help people in the best way possible in an effort to preserve and to save more lives in the Nation’s Capital and beyond.

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Code Red
Gunshot Victim
Life Threatening Wounds
Physical Assault Victim
Severely Injured Auto Accident Victim
Burn Victim
Choking & Breathing Obstructions
and more…


Child Sex Assault Victim
Domestic Violence Victim
Drug Overdose
Rape/Sex Crime Victim
Suicide Watch
Trafficking Victim
Nervous Breakdown
and more…

Mental Health

At Capital City Emergency Trauma & Wellness Center patrons with mental health emergencies that include life threatening situations in which an individual is imminently threatening harm to self or others, severely disoriented or out of touch with reality, has a severe inability to function or is otherwise distraught and out of control, will have access to quality and psychiatric emergency services and referrals.

Physical Health

Whether your life threatening medical emergency involves excessive or uncontrollable bleeding, head injury. difficulty with breathing, severe pain, heart attack, vision impairments, stroke, physically collapsing, or seizure related, rest assured that our professionals will properly assess and evaluate the level of response that will be most needed to help provide stabilized care solutions and minimize complications as well as reduce early mortality.

Holistic Healthcare

We offer healthcare solutions that will support the whole person which includes their physical, psychological, emotional, social, & spiritual wellbeing. Research supports that because your mental state can affect your overall health we support and offer the inclusion of complimentary and alternative medicine(CAM) practitioners and naturopathic doctor recommendations and referrals as a part of our Outreach Community Resource Center’s care regimen and support.


Emergency care can typically result in traumatic injuries for which rehabilitation becomes an essential component of care in trying to achieve the best long-term outcomes for the patient. In addition to speeding up recovery times and helping to prevent further complications, rehabilitative care also helps to support a patient’s self-managed recovery once discharged from our facility. Our Outreach Community Resource Center works closely with our trauma center’s discharge department to assure that patrons requiring these services are linked with qualified professionals who will be accountable to the standard of care required to help the patron be successful in their recovery.

Social Services

Our “state of the art” Outreach Community Resource Center intends to promote “expansive” beneficial community enriching services, programs, case management, & linkage to “approved” partner resources and supports in all of the following intended areas and more:

Social Services

  • Clothing
  • Food Pantry
  • Housing/Shelter
  • I.D. Credentials
  • Senior Wellness Check
  • Toiletries
  • Transportation
  • Etc.

Extended Family Services

  • Child Care
  • Credit Counseling
  • Family Court Services
  • Legal Aide

Career Training

  • Apprenticeship programs
  • Computer/Graphics Training
  • Culinary Program  
  • GED Courses
  • Hospitality Training
  • Job Etiquette & Grooming
  • Resume’ Prep
  • Sales Training
  • Software/Technology workshops
  • Small Business Training

Return Citizen
Program Partner
(Bridging the Gap)

  • Case Management
  • Temporary Boarding/Housing
  • Transitional Program Registration

Prevention/Intervention Outreach,
Workshops, & Programs

  • After-school Behavioral Health Program
  • Civic Engagement / Volunteer Sign-up
  • Fatherhood Rites of Passage
  • Gun Violence Town Hall Forum
  • Life Coaching & Coping Strategies
  • Marriage Counseling Workshops
  • Medicare Informational Workshops
  • Mentorship Training
  • Parental Classes
  • Support Groups
  • Town Hall Discussions
  • Violence De-Escalation Training
  • Voter Registration

Nutritional Outreach

  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Dietary Programs
  • Exercise Classes
  • Recipe Sharing Workshops
  • Meal Prep

Community Outreach

The Healthy DC & Me Leadership Coalition is partnering with the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health advocacy organization to provide outreach services on the community level as an aid in reducing the existent health inequities that many District citizens are facing as a direct result of the presence of debilitating social determinants and the lack of culturally appropriate care choices and realities for community members residing in marginalized and lower-income communities.

It is the vision and intentions of the M.I. Mother’s Keeper Mental Health Advocates organization to help improve the quality of living for citizens living in our Nation’s Capital and beyond by overseeing the delicate linkage to services and by maintaining higher standards of care accountability for deserving citizens of the Nation’s Capital.

For more information or to enroll as one of our service providers, please email us at: