Online Program

Dive-ing Into Healing: Theater for Mental Health Awareness in the Filipino Community

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 12:00 p.m. - 12:09 p.m.

Heidi Tuason, MPH, School of Public Health, Community Health Sciences Department, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
Grace Alvarez, MA, MEND Dance Theater, Newark, CA
This film portrays a creative method of exploring and talking about mental health issues in the Filipino American community and provides a space for community healing by depicting the grassroots theater performance "Dive", which strings together stories of mental health issues from the performers themselves. This film highlights MEnD Dance Theater Company in the San Francisco Bay Area and its founder Grace, a community organizer, educator, and art activist.

Rates of depression and suicidal thoughts in the Filipino American community are higher than the national average, yet due to cultural stigma, this is not talked about or addressed by the larger community. Studies have reported a steady and consistent pattern/increase that Filipino Americans obtain the highest percentage of depression using the Center of Epidemiological Studies--Depression Scale (CES-D). Based on the low rates of Filipina/o Americans seeking mental health services, mental health in the Filipina/o American community continues to remain in the margins (Gong, Gage, & Tacata, 2003; Ying & Hu, 1994).  

Due to this MEnD Dance Theater began to explore these issues with the seven women in their company through a dance theater piece developed over the course of two years.  Four members are Filipina American, one is African American, and another is mixed heritage of British and African American descent.  

This film displays one of their productions and shows how company members found healing through movement expression.  Through the performance piece, company members were able to uncover larger systems that may explain why Filipina/o Americans are struggling with depression and refuse to seek mental health services.  

In partnership with San Francisco’s Filipino Mental Health Initiative as part of the panel at the end of each of the four runs of the shows, dialogue was generated with audience members and the community on alternative ways to address these issues and provide care.  Utilizing both dance, public health, and critical pedagogical theories connected to how this project manifested, this film pushes viewers to see a creative method of mental health stigma reduction and healing, and revert back to indigenous ways of healing as a viable possibility to improve the well-being of individuals, especially the Filipina/o American community where their voices have been silenced by pushing to re-engage ourselves as human beings:  mind, body, and soul.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Identify a creative method of mental health education through dance theater used in the San Francisco Bay Area to address cultural stigma around mental health in the Filipino community Describe at least 3 cultural values in the Filipino American community that affect stigma around mental health Compare rates of depression in the Filipino American community with those in the white American population

Keyword(s): Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and, Diversity and culture

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conceptualized, produced, filmed, and edited this film through a class at the UCLA Center for Ethnocommunications class. I have been working with the Filipino Mental Health Initiative in the Bay Area for over 3 years, including collaborations with MEND Dance Theater, and have been doing research in the field of Filipino mental health for the past 3 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.