On the show today we are talking about the Mental Health Movement happening in Korean American Churches.
Mustard Seed Generation is a non-profit that provides culture-specific training to increase the mental health literacy of Korean American Churches, families, and youth.
33% of Korean Americans reportedly struggle with depression and mental health problems. And yet, Korean Americans are 3x less likely to seek professional help than white Americans.
And Mustard Seed Generation is taking action. They are passionately creating safe spaces and offer counseling networks for the Korean community to turn to so that their community of silent sufferers can be heard and healed.
Through training church staff and volunteer leaders, they have had the opportunity to impact 22,625 people!
What Mustard Seed Generation is doing is an example that many can follow. They lean into what makes their community unique, they are looking at the strengths and barriers of their culture and develop incredible resources that are laser-focused on building mental health literacy.
Mustard Seed Generation saw how the Korean-American Church is a safe home for so many and has brought training and opportunities for healing directly to the community.
My husband and I were recently on vacation without kids. This was the first time in about 8 years that we had a week away together, no kids. It was awesome. We walked a few kilometers down the grand canyon, rented a four-wheeler, went off-roading in the desert, and enjoyed the incredible show of stars in a sky preserve while staying in an off-the-grid dome.
But as amazing as it was after about 6 days we were ready to get home. It’s funny to think about what makes a home feel like home.
We mostly missed our kids, friends, family, and the familiarity of our house.
While eating out was amazing, it was interesting that eating a simple spaghetti dinner around our table and listening to our children’s chatter seemed extra delicious and special.
We craved a home. We are created to need connection and to be in relationships with people.
And having safe relationships is a big part of what makes a place feel like home.
FINDING COMMUNITY IN CHURCH
Jess Cho Kim talks about finding this sense of home and community in her story of being a first-generation Korean American.
Jess shared that her family moved from South Korea to Ohio when she was very young because of her father’s work.
She recalls living in a community with very few people who looked like her or had similar traditions. She felt like an outsider at school and in their neighborhood.
However, her parents were believers, and only in their Korean-American church, did she feel like she belonged and it became the center of their community and home.
Jess shares that this is a familiar experience for many Asian- Americans. Their church becomes the center of their community because it’s where those with similar values and traditions gather. An Oasis in the middle of a desert.
Jess shares that the idea of the church being the space to grow mental health literacy and awareness for Korean-Americans seemed logical, but it came with challenges because while the church invested in her, and helped her develop a deeper relationship with the Lord, like for many, there was also hurt.
OVERCOMING THE HURT FROM THE CHURCH
Jess recalls that when she had just gotten married, she and her husband started attending a church in Korea and one Sunday the Pastor welcomed everyone to church and he apologized for any hurt caused by the church.
While he apologized, he started crying and so did Jess. She said she did not understand how hurt she was by the church till that moment.
This was the start of her healing and the beginning of safety in the church again.
MENTAL HEALTH IN CHURCH
Mental Health can affect family and Jess shares that she has a sibling who has struggled with mental illness for a long period of time and she has seen firsthand how it can impair the life trajectory of somebody with a promising future especially if the family doesn’t understand how to navigate such a crisis.
During such a time of struggle, the church was often the last place that her family felt like they could share because it seemed like it was a place for only positive sharing like if someone got an award or had something to brag about.
This frustrated Jess and has been a motivation to speak up on mental health issues.
WHAT CAN THE CHURCH DO TO PROMOTE MENTAL HEALTH
Often times there is a problem of delayed help-seeking with people waiting till the church is accommodative to their issues then they can seek help from professionals.
This can lead to serious crises that can end up in the emergency room which are avoidable had the church offered room for mental health discourse.
Jess narrates that she was prompted to start a mental health ministry where people would come in and share. It was a place to pray or share the word but just a weekly space to be where people would share their hearts.
The ministry has progressively grown and over the pandemic, it was such a helpful resource to its members. Counselors have been invited to the ministry and speakers invited to highlight various mental health issues.
MUSTARD SEED GENERATION
Founded by Dr. Josephine Kim about 15 years ago in response to the Virginia Tech shootings that led to strong emotions and high levels of distress echoed throughout the Korean community.
In 2014, it took a break as Dr. Kim’s hands were full with different aspects however in 2017 it was relaunched with the support of Korean graduate students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
While Jess was about her life, she heard about it and was so glad to be part of a faith-based non-profit organization spreading the word on mental health.
Mustard Seed Generation exists to eradicate barriers to mental health that increase life dissatisfaction, family dysfunction, and suicide in the Korean American community.
Jess shares that it has a number of programs to support mental health and highlighted one in particular. A seven weel virtual mental health program for church leaders.
It covers a spectrum of topics from divorce, adolescence, and many more challenges faced by people in ministry.
Mental Health is a topic that should be continuously spoken about in the church and the Mustard Seed Generation makes this possible through its work, especially for members of the Korean American church.
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