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The Pan-Asian American Community House will sponsor weekly peer support groups for Asian and Pacific Islander students starting this week.

The peer support groups aim to foster an inclusive and open space for API students. Renee Bi, a first-year student pursuing a master's degree in counseling and mental health services, and Betty Hsu, a first-year student pursuing a master's degree in school and mental health counseling, will lead the program. 

Both Bi and Hsu are counseling interns and graduate liaisons at PAACH. 

“Just talking about mental health can make students feel like they’re weak,” Bi said. “I really want people to know [about] mental health programs and services. This is something they don’t need to fear.”

The support group discussions will be primarily driven by students, touching on topics like career-related development and personal growth. The sessions, which were announced to students on the center's listserv, will take place at the ARCH building every Monday and Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m.

The Monday session will be conducted in English and the Wednesday session in Mandarin Chinese. The group sessions are capped at 10 students and are open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Both Bi and Hsu said the peer support groups are specifically aimed at Asian and Pacific Islander students because they often “stigmatize” mental health.

“I think everyone’s background is different, but there are communities within the API community that view going to a mental health professional as not needed, or they don’t view mental health as an actual concern,” said College and Wharton junior Soomin Shin, chair of the Asian Pacific Student Coalition. “There is definitely a stigma in some communities.”

Bi and Hsu also offer private walk-in counseling sessions every Monday and Wednesday from 5 to 6 p.m. at PAACH.

Bi said all five counseling interns at PAACH, Makuu, and La Casa Latina, the three cultural community houses on campus, are collaborating to establish biweekly mental health workshops focusing on topics ranging from self-care to interpersonal relationships. The workshops will be led by an intern and will likely begin in February. Bi said the workshops will probably require advanced registration since facilitators will be providing dinner. 

“Having this peer support group at PAACH is a lot more comfortable and accessible because they will probably touch on topics that resonate more with [API] students,” Shin said. “People also develop a sense of helping each other, which is really valuable.”

Although both groups are filled for the semester, Bi and Hsu said they would consider expanding the groups or offering additional sessions if more students fill out the interest form