On September 14th, Saheli, in partnership with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC) held its first Emotional Well-Being and Positive Mental Health Awareness Symposium at the HPHC campus in Wellesley, MA. The full day conference was attended by a diverse group of nearly 200 community members. In addition to South Asian friends, there were educators, mental health professionals, social workers, and domestic violence survivors – all interested in getting a better understanding of the context and contributing factors that make the South Asian community unique.
Following a morning kick-off breakfast, the attendees were treated to a keynote address from Dr. Nicholas Covino, President of the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. After his remarks, the attendees opened up the day with a panel on Domestic Violence: Narratives of Resiliency that chronicled first person stories of domestic violence survivors’ South Asian origin.
The day then progressed through three panels addressing key components of emotional well being: the challenges of motherhood, the social construction of manhood, and the resiliency of teenagers. Along with the presentation of scholarly work on each of the topics, the panels also included anecdotal experiences and even a set of short skits illustrating the strains of domestic violence. The transitions between panels were filled with the soothing and haunting sounds and music of gongs and crystal bowls. The day ended with breakout sessions from the Eastern Harmony team on Kundalini Yoga, Acupuncture, Reflexology, Hypnotherapy, Massage Therapy, Tai chi, Qi Gong: forms of Eastern methods for emotional well-being. Harvard Pilgrim’s Eastern Harmony program was the showcase for this part of the day.
It truly was a wonderful day dedicated to the exploration of all aspects of emotional well being. Framed by the dynamics of South Asian households, we were able to hear from so many community members who finally had a place to tell their stories. By lending their voices to the conversation, they no doubt enriched the knowledge of everyone in attendance.
Personally, we would also like to thank each and every one of the presenters and attendees for taking the time to participate in the day. Needless to say, we could not have done it without you. A special thanks also goes to the organizing team, including Sweta Mepani Mala Krishnamurthy, Bonnie Bagchi Williamson, Manish Patel, and Ramesh Advani, and our amazing partners at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.
This symposium was the realization of a vision many years in the making and our greatest hope is that the day started a dialogue between families, educators, and community members who believe in the mission of Saheli and emotional well-being as a priority. Let’s talk about these issues openly and constructively. We need to understand the emotional needs of every family member – husbands, wives, sons, daughters, in-laws, and extended family alike. In the end, our ability to communicate with one another is the key to creating a safe environment in which to live, work, play, and grow together.