While learning English, it can be difficult for new Americans to focus and make the rapid progress they desire. Adjusting to a new country can bring new stressors and barriers: cultural and language issues, added stress on family life, health issues related to war and life in refugee camps, as well as common stressors that come with poverty. MORE seeks to surround these new Americans with a sense of community, love, and support that makes this journey less overwhelming. We try to attend to whatever needs the people bring to us, regularly assisting people in navigating the medical, welfare, housing, legal, and educational systems whose paperwork and processes can be overwhelming and confusing even when one speaks English. These services include anything from filling out paperwork, assistance in making appointments, advocating with other providers, and accompanying people through the system as they face serious illnesses, domestic abuse, court appearances, loss of housing, and family crises. MORE also works to gain access to affordable housing, energy assistance, and other programs that can help relieve poverty and financial stress. During this process we teach these new Americans how to navigate these systems and advocate for themselves and others.
Last year MORE provided advocacy and case management to 259 people, which more than double the previous year.
Every new American carries their version of the “American Dream” and are eager to adjust and contribute to their new community. Many new Americans are still deeply affected by the traumas of their past and the stress of the current cultural adjustment resulting in mental and emotional distress that slows their ability to begin to live out this new dream. Unfortunately, the majority resist seeking mental health services from a traditional clinic due to a lack of a construct for mental illness that meshes with the Western model and a deep fear of being stigmatized and labeled “crazy”.
For this reason MORE seeks to offer mental health services within the embracing arms of our community environment as one of many supports we offer. Many of those seeking mental health services first attend our English classes or come for case management and advocacy services, allowing us to build a relationship and trust. They often speak of MORE as a second home, making mental health services more culturally acceptable since they feel like they are seeking help from an extended family member, an auntie, a sister, or a friend, rather than a stranger.
Services include individual and family counseling as well as support groups. Currently we have a Karen Elders’ support group, a Hmong Elders’ support group, and a Karen Women’s Depression treatment/support group.
In 2008-2009 45 people benefitted from MORE’s mental health services. We are currently working to find ways to meet the growing demand.