Parent and Community Workshop
MengZhen is a Psychology Lecturer at Segi College Subang Jaya in Malaysia. After seeing a video about mental health community outreach at Sip of Hope Cafe, he decided to reach out and make a visit to Chicago to meet with the Hope for the Day team. This grand action is a great example of the type of teacher MengZhen is. It was an honor to partner with him and planning with his students to host a parent workshop to support outreach goals of Hope Travels.
Reaching out to Mengzhen’s Psychology students encouraged my commitment to proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. In my recent experiences, the concept of “taking a village” has created a concrete notion that mental health education cannot take place in a vacuum, but requires a general societal outreach and core understandings.
Relationships between children and parents can be complex in all areas of the world. There is nothing new about this. However, the onset of technology, social media, societal changes, and approaches to parents make this feel more challenging to many. While there are many cultural factors influencing observable mental health shifts, one things remains universal. In all workshops with teens, they talk about their deep desire for their parents to try to understand what they are facing and become willing listeners.
Parents can feel helpless when they encounter challenges and awkward in conversations about issues they have never comfortably discussed before. At times, this can display as overreaction, escapism, and silence. Strategies that have worked in the past, may not seem to hold the same power, which can lead to frustration for all.
During our online collaboration, Mengzhen determined time with university students was important, but that sustainable change demanded increased parent awareness and conversations about mental health.
Our community lecture was hosted by Segi College Subang Jaya with a focus on, “Safeguarding Children’s Mental Health and Reducing Harmful Risks of Technology.” Parents crave knowledge, and sometimes ache for simple solutions to complex challenges. This can feel frustrating for everyone, but we talked about the importance of being proactive and not waiting to communicate about mental health until challenges arise. Along with technology benefits and challenges, our session topics included the power of self expression, developing resilience and a growth mindset, and general information about depression.
After the session, club members taught me about, “Sidewalk Talk: A Community Listening Project.” On a monthly basis, students set up chairs outside of Sunway Pyramid Mall to create an environment that nurtures open dialogue and responsive listening. These sessions, based on international Sidewalk Talk program, are intended to change the world “one heart-centered conversation at a time.”
Sadly, on this stormy afternoon, setting up was as far as we got before having to cancel the event. Still, I was able to recognize the commitment of the students and better understand the framework and benefits of this important community program.
Proactive suicide prevention begins with conversations. I am proud of the work of the university students who planned these events. Sometimes, barriers exist, but students on both campuses show a deep willingness to be collaborative and open to important dialogue that will lead to positive change.
The university students I met at Segi University were motivated and dedicated to helping others. Their innovative ideas will surely provide positive results in the community.