(thunder booming) - Every second of my life, I thought about killing myself.
Every second of my life, I was angry.
I did not realize I had suffered severe depression.
For a kid, my mind was filled with anger.
My name is Paul Hoang.
I am a licensed clinical social worker within the state of California.
I am Vietnamese, my dad and my two older sister along with 27 other men and women and children escaped Vietnam by boat in the late '80s after the Vietnam War.
We were on the ocean for about 30 days, struggling with starvation, near death experiences, with high pirate attacks, with multiple perfect storms that just tossed us like a ping-pong, waves after wave.
(thunder booming) I've never realized how impactful that experience was on me when I was just seven years old, until I entered a seminary post high school.
That's when I've learned I had PTSD, I had depressions, I had mental illness.
Did not know the concept of mental illness, and there's not even vocabulary to talk about mental illness in our culture.
It was quite eye-opening.
It's an opportunity to better understand why every time I see a person who's of Thai origin, that this whole rage within me would come up and I want to beat them up.
Why growing up, every time I see a stormy weather or cloudy sky, my whole body would shake and freeze.
None of my family members know what was going on.
I was very good at hiding.
I was still able to focus on school and get straight A's.
In Vietnam, when someone is seen or perceived or diagnosed to have a mental illness, they get locked up in a institution.
They are treated as subhuman, not even human.
They will get whiped, they will get punished.
Even family member would cage them and display them in front of the house as like, a show.
These are the experiences that, as a culture, people are scared as hell.
I don't want to be anywhere associated or near to anyone who is seen as crazy, even to a location that would associate me to someone who's crazy.
In my first year in the seminary, I wrote about my experience.
One of my professors was a psychologist and he was a priest, referred me to my spiritual director and she provided spiritual guidance and counseling.
That was a moment that really transformed my life.
Working within my own community, I tend not to use mental health terminology.
That I need to be able to reframe it in a way that's culturally and linguistically neutral and more positive.
And so in our cultures, not just the Vietnamese or the Asian community, we emphasize a lot on education and on success and on self-reliance.
All of us, whether we have a mental illness or not we all want to have a successful life.
We all want to have a healthy life.
We all want to have a happy life.
Then we'd start breaking it down.
Okay, what are the barriers for you to get there?
And then we tackle each of that as behavioral, as practical concept and concrete.
I can have people say, I hear voices.
You hear voices.
How does that voice contribute to your success?
I have clients who are like, Hey I have, my voices is always pumping me up, cheering me on.
Great, keep it.
I want that same voice.
I look at functionality.
I look at integrations of holistic health.
It's a matter of perception.
It's a matter of what works for you and for the community.
Clinicians tend to stereotype and generalize and take one mold and apply onto another instead of personalize every individual for who they are and the subculture that that person has.
Even among the Asian community there's so many different subcultures.
And that has been an ongoing challenge within the system of care.
Especially during this time of so much high tension of racism and discrimination and violence.
It goes back to this, in my opinion there's this concept of, we all have to be the same.
There's no room for differences.
Treat each individual as an individual.
Treat the person as a person.