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By Cynthia Ronquillo

 We have a new “normal.” This is what is commonly said and accepted nowadays. But I guess what everyone did not anticipate is that this new “normal” will affect us in not so normal ways. One particular area is mental health. One greatly impacted group is our young people.

 Having recognized this, the Office of Asian Pacific Ministry, through the leadership of its Director, Sister Maria Jennifer Nguyen, L.H.C., created a workshop geared towards the young people in our Diocese and their mental health, with the goal of providing a safe place to “check in” with people of the same age with the oversight and guidance from adults who are professionals in this field and also those who wanted to reach out and provide assistance in their small way.

 There were about 42 participants who registered for the Virtual Asian Pacific Youth Day, about 28 of them young adults (high school aged) coming from different parishes throughout the Diocese. They were assigned into breakout rooms of about 6-7 people. There were two adult facilitators in each group.

 There were presentations and video clips from Ms. Estée Song who is with the Asian Pacific Consulting and Training Center and a resource speaker in the area of cultivating positive mental awareness and health and identifying mental illnesses or areas of concern.

 Gauging from the reactions of the young people who attended, they responded very well with the recommendations on how to deal with stress through tools that they could use, suggestions on how to find peace and care spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. Interestingly, the young people were asked to find an object that they find comfort in or make them happy. The objects that they shared were truly simple and heartwarming when they shared what those meant for them.

 Although it is sometimes hard for someone to open up easily about a topic like mental health, the workshop also reiterated the message that “it’s okay not to be okay.” Especially for young people who strive to be accepted or validated by their peers, this made them feel relieved.

 There may be another workshop or opportunities by other organizations or agencies that might tackle this important new “normal’ for everyone. What is important is that we have an open dialogue about it, provide tools to help deal with the stress factors, and reiterate through our faith that God made us and will always be there to help and love us. I know that our young people who attended the workshop heard this message loud and clear.

Cynthia Ronquillo is the Chairperson of the Filipino Ministry of the Diocese of San Bernardino.