The Cultural Competency Program provides overall direction, focus, and organization in the implementation of the system-wide Cultural Competency Plan that addresses the enhancement of workforce development and the ability to incorporate languages, cultures, beliefs, and practices of its consumers into the services.


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HMONG STORIES OF HOPE: Each Mind Matters, California Mental Health Movement



My name is John Tongyer Yang. I am a Hmong American who grew up in Banning CA. I work as an office assistant at the Riverside University Health System-Behavioral Health in Riverside County, where we help people with access to mental health care.   In this CD you will hear three stories about Hmong families and individuals and their experiences in working through their mental health challenges.  These are some of the winning stories from CalMHSA’s statewide “Stories of Hope” storytelling contest written by Hmong youth in Sacramento and Fresno counties. You will hear how a mental health condition has affected them and their families, but more importantly, how they received help and how they are now dealing with these lifelong conditions.  We are sharing these stories to show you that mental health is real and that you can recover from these mental health challenges.  Maybe you, your family members, or friends are experiencing something similar, or even something totally different.  You may not know what to do or who to call, so we are here to help. We encourage the Hmong people to seek help when you or your family or friends need it.  There is always help and hope.



By Karissa Lee


What is mental health? Mental health is a disorder of the mind, which the person may or may not be aware that they have. Mental disorders can affect in various ways such as mood disorders, eating disorders, addictive disorder, etc. I can only hope that my story of dealing with a mental disorder, depression, will encourage those suffering to speak up and ask for the help they need.

I had lost almost everything that I treasured deep within myself at a very young age. My mother and father had died due to an incurable illness. That left my siblings and me in the hands of our new caretakers, which of course, was family. They worked my siblings and me from sunup to sundown while they feasted in our absence. I had no one to turn to; no one I could trust. Step by step, day by day, I endured the hardship and learned life the hard way.

As years passed, I met a man and got married.  We had raised twelve, beautiful children. Three sadly though, had left us early because of diseases that spread like wildfire and were untreatable. It was about 1972 during the Vietnam War, we ran for our lives in fear of being caught and taken away.  We had to hide in the jungle and travel to our next post by night to avoid any soldiers. From losing everything as a child, to now trying to keep my family alive, it felt as if everything inside me had just mashed up into one, huge problem. I didn’t know though, that the situation I was suffering from was far worse than I had imagined it to be. I discriminated it as just a phase and thought I would soon get over it with time’s hand.

When arriving to America, day by day my symptoms of depression worsened without me even noticing it. I didn’t know how to cope with it. It was like being a prisoner of your own mind.  Soon though, I realized that my feelings inside me weren’t going to leave. I finally reached out for help from an old relative who worked with the Fresno County Mental Health Department. After filling out paper after paper, I was assigned to a mental health counselor. She referred me to take medications to help me cope with my depression. All I can say is that seeking help was so incredibly nerve wrecking. I knew the smallest amount of English, and was afraid to share my thoughts to people I had never met before. Even when I was diagnosed with a depression disorder, I didn’t fully believe I had a mental illness. The more I continued with my treatment though, the more my life had improved. 

I actually enjoyed going out into public and making new friends. I began to be more optimistic about life and understood that since we only had one life; there was no more time to waste. I’m now more educated than ever about my mental disorder. I now understand that it really isn’t just a feeling. It isn’t crazy to seek for help like how other perceived it to be. The effect of my medication and the mental exercises I was doing really did improve my life and help me to forget all my troubles.

There is a resolution, and there are really people out there who will pull you back up on your feet.  You aren’t alone, and with the simple act of speaking up, you can receive help and feel empowered once again to be free from your own mind.  Keep my word for it.




By Justin Vang



My name is Mai Vue.  I’m Hmong and live in Sacramento, California. My life has been a story of struggle. When I was 10 years old, my dad shot and killed my mom and two brothers. This has scarred me for life. When the police arrived my dad had already shot himself. I was left with no family because my grandparents had just left us a year ago. I soon found that my dad was a drug addict and my parents were running out of money. My dad got mad so he threatened my mom. My brothers tried to defend her but my dad was on drugs and he became ruthless to his surroundings.

When I entered high school I was looked down upon because of what happened with my family. I was adopted by another Hmong family. There were many problems between me and the kids of my foster parents. They never understood my pain and sorrow of losing parents. I’ve always tried to stay away from everyone because I was too insecure and scared of what they might think of me. It came to a point where my foster parents asked a shaman to look at me. The shaman explained that there was a ghost following me which was why I was always so depressed. My foster parents decided to “ua neeb,” a ritual where the shaman calls good spirits to come heal me and scare away bad spirits. This never worked out for I was still alone and depressed. All of the Hmong elders within my foster parents’ family clan tried over and over again to the point where they just gave up on me. They said that I was cursed and couldn’t be healed.

I was now worst than ever, I was always alone now. I never tried to communicate or ask things that I need. It got to the point where I started failing my classes miserably and so my counselor called me to his office. He was the first person who ever talked to me about my problems so openly. When I got there he went straight to the point and I couldn’t help but cry because of the memories of my family, corrupted and destroyed. He recommended western medication and sent me to a therapist.

My therapist tried to help me but I wouldn’t let him through my gates of emotion for I didn’t want to feel how I felt 5 years ago. I left him empty handed in his attempt to find answers about me. He couldn’t find anything so he sent me to a support group where I would learn about other people’s problems. I soon found that I wasn’t the only person who felt pain in my heart.  While listening to other people’s experiences I was finally able to tell my story of tragedy with my family. 

I’ve always felt lonely because I never met people who were like me. Now at 25, I’ve learned that sorrow cannot be cured with loneliness but by being with people. Sometimes being able to open up to people is the only cure to depression, such as mine.


I learned how to be accepted in society by changing the way I act. Just one person in the world can help make a change in someone’s life forever just like how my teacher, my therapist and my friends from my support group had helped me.




By Selena Vang


There was a boy named Jake who has schizophrenia. Because of his illness, he started losing interest in everyday activities, like bathing, grooming, or getting dressed. So every morning his mom or dad would go into his room and dress him and groom his hair. They would try to talk to him but he would only nod and listen but never respond back to them. So his parents decided to sacrifice an animal to see if it could make it better but it didn’t. They didn’t know what else to do so they went to a Shaman. The Shaman got them herbs to see if it would work. But it still didn’t work. They didn’t know what to do so they let him be.

One day, there was a boy who bullied Jake and made fun of him. Jake couldn’t do anything because of his schizophrenia. The bully pushed Jake and he fell and hit his head. When the security came, he asked if Jake was okay. When Jake nodded, the security took Jake to the nurse’s office and then went to the principal’s office. The principal called his parents and told them to come to the school to take him home. When Jake’s parents came, they had worried looks on their faces. After checking if he was okay, they went to talk to the principal. Then his parents came out and asked if he was okay. Jake nodded his head numbly and started to cry. After his crying slowed down, they went home.

His parents decided to visit his grandparents for a couple of days.  On the first day, at his grandparents he was sick and couldn’t even get up. His grandmother gave him some herbs to see if it would help him but they didn’t so he was in bed for more than three days.  When he went to school everyone called him names, but he could care less and walked away. Everyone at school hated him because they thought he was a mute because he wouldn’t talk to anyone.

There was only one person who thought he wasn’t a mute. Her name is Terra. Terra chose to be his friend because she had an uncle who also had schizophrenia so she knew how to help people with schizophrenia. She wanted people, and the whole world to know that Jake is not different from us. She hoped that by openly accepting him in front of their peers, it would help end stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses, like Jake.

After spending so much time together, Jake started to talk more and he became more active every day. Jake wanted to show everyone and Terra that he can be just like everybody else. Even though Jake isn’t fully recovered, he doesn’t care because he has his family, Terra, and the support that he needs. With the people around him and their support, he can live a better life than he would if he didn’t receive any help.



I hope you found these stories helpful and I encourage you to share this CD with as many people as you can. Many people, including me, have experienced mental health challenges. But it’s possible to get help, feel better and start to enjoy life more.  Did you know that one in four adults in the United States have been diagnosed with mental health challenges?  Research shows that if you get help in the first year when you experience mental and emotional challenges, it is possible to recover sooner.

Don’t be afraid to get help.  In these stories, our Hmong friends have shared how medication, talking with trained professionals and support from others have helped them feel better and have a more productive life.

Riverside University Health System-Behavioral Health has many clinics to help you in Riverside County. There is a clinic in Banning that is close to where many of our Hmong people live. In fact, there are many clinics throughout California.  Do not be afraid to call because you cannot speak English. Our clinic staff can provide a Hmong interpreter and will connect you with the programs and services you need. All services are confidential. Your personal and medical information will not be shared with anyone unless you give us permission in writing.

Call now if you need help or if you have questions. You can call me directly, John Tongyer Yang, at (951) 791-3376 and I will connect you to the clinic closest to you.  You can also call the Banning Behavior Health Clinic at (951) 849-7142.

Thank you for your time and for listening to this Audio, we hope this was helpful to you, your family, and friends.

Field level help.