Woman shares struggles with mental health to break stigma and encourage others to seek help in Chicago's Chinatown

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Migrating from China to Chicago, one woman who didn’t want to be identified told NBC Chicago she was fighting a secret battle.

“There was a time where she felt really chaos and she does not know what her direction is,” she said through an interpreter.

The 29-year-old revealed she was struggling with her mental health and fearing the worst given the stigma in her culture.

“She didn’t want to talk about all this kind of thing with her family as well she feels like it’s shameful to talk about that [mental health].” she said through an interpreter.

But she found the courage to reach out for help. She’s now one of 60 clients receiving mental health services, including counseling and therapy at the Chinese American Service League in Chinatown and said had it not been for the support she wouldn’t be here today.

“She previously felt there was a lot of fog and now she’s being more clear about the direction of her life,” she said.

CASL expanded its mental health services last year to reach even more people and said right now there’s a waiting list and a need for more social workers who speak Cantonese.

“I’m seeing more and more people reaching out and I’m feeling my work is valuable,” she said.

Jinxiao Tan is a licensed social worker and runs one of the programs.

“I have seen a lot of people reaching out to talk about their family dynamics, family conflict,” Tan said. “We have some younger adults talking about their academic stress and a lot of emerging adulthood. We’re talking about identity issues, gender identity issues.”

She and her colleagues through advocacy work are trying to break the stigma of mental health and letting people know that reaching out is not a sign of weakness.

“I think more and more younger generations especially are more willing to talk about that [mental health],” Tan said.

Since launching its Behavioral and Clinical Services in 2021, CASL said it has helped more than 200 people in Chinatown. According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, suicide is the leading cause of deaths among Asians between the ages of 15 and 24.

For one woman, who was once afraid to speak up, she’s hope that by sharing her story now it could help save a life.

“The message she wants to convey is mental health is really important and that she felt like, talking to people actually heals her.”

If you or someone you know is in need of help please call or text 988.

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