SEARAC, CPEHN, The Cambodian Family, and Partner Organizations Across California Celebrate Our Right to Heal

Last week, SEARAC joined our California-based advocacy and health services partners to host a virtual education and civic engagement event focused on centering community mental health. Our “Right to Heal” event brought together individuals, community organizations, and elected officials from across the state – both virtually and in-person – to learn more about the mental health needs of diverse communities in California.

In addition to the Right to Heal event, SEARAC, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), The Cambodian Family, and other state partners released a report that shared recommendations for meeting community mental health needs. CPEHN and four statewide organizations hosted with the Year 2 local partners listening sessions in Del Norte, Humboldt, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties. These listening sessions came in a variety of formats – including focus groups, multi-day conferences, and educational seminars, and they were hosted in both virtual and in-person settings.

Key themes emerged from the focus groups that are highlighted in the report, including:
  • Mental health stigma is pervasive,
  • Services are difficult to access,
  • Lack of cultural relevance or response to mental health services,
  • Services are not useful or helpful, and
  • Grave health impacts on the BIPOC communities.

The need for mental health services for diverse communities across California is dire, and inequities continue to lead to higher rates of depression and suicidality. Participants and their respective communities in Year 2 were more receptive to talk about mental health and build advocacy within their communities due to impacts of the pandemic. Further, the local partners’ long-standing work to reduce mental health stigma and provide training for community members to be mental health advocates were prioritized and implemented to improve the mental health care system.

“As refugees and children of refugees, Southeast Asian Americans have unique mental health concerns that must be acknowledged and addressed,” stated Mandy Diec, SEARAC Deputy Director of California. “We are proud to work with our partners across the state of California to bring our diverse communities together in pursuit of solutions that improve mental health access. This new report offers insights into our communities’ histories, identities, and experiences that will allow policymakers and providers to better meet our needs.”
“Right to Heal has been such an incredible, generous experience. Being in community with so many individuals and organizations across California – who all share our dedication to the health and well-being of marginalized peoples – is a priceless gift,” stated Vattana Peong, Executive Director of The Cambodian Family. “Right to Heal reminds us that racial solidarity, language justice, accessibility, and joy are all crucial in achieving health equity, and that our advocacy work demands rest and celebration. We are extremely grateful to have partners like CPEHN and SEARAC, who are committed to uplifting communities like ours, and are excited to see us thrive.”
“Being in community with everyone during the Right to Heal event was so rejuvenating. Our Black, Indigenous, communities of color bring so much history, richness, and resilience to these difficult and challenging topics,” said Alej Fernandez Garcia, CPEHN Community Advocacy Manager. “We hope folks walked away with new tools and strategies to center their own mental health and community wellness.”

Community members gathering at Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries’ (FIRM) center for an in-person community screening in Fresno, CA, to watch keynote speaker The Venerable Pau Ket

This new report was launched earlier this month at an event with The Cambodian Family that featured thoughtful engagement, conversation, and quality resources related to the mental health challenges that our communities experience. Keynote speaker The Venerable Pau Ket, a Cambodian Buddhist monk from Wat Khmer Monastery of Lake Elsinore, CA, imparted wisdom and the importance of maintaining mental wellness through mindful practices and strong community support.
The event also featured powerful performances through music, dance, poetry, storytelling, and chanting, which unified participants and emphasized the call to heal our experiences and traumas. The digital space was energized with participants connecting to the stories and grounding activities.
Recordings from the Right to Heal virtual event are now available.
(top image: The Cambodian Family staff with the keynote speaker Venerable Pau Ket and community members at The Cambodian Family community center in Santa Ana, CA for the in-person event community screening)
Media contacts:
Elaine Sanchez Wilson, SEARAC
Ravi Seng, The Cambodian Family
Monika Lee, CPEHN