Both Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month were spotlighted and celebrated earlier this year in May. But while those 31 days have passed, important work is still being done. One such Portland crusader for both causes is 17-year old Aaron Li. Li started Project Lotus with three fellow high schoolers in Beaverton. “I created Project Lotus after seeing how members of the Asian-American community brushed aside mental health problems and swept them under the rug,” he says.
The goal of Project Lotus is to educate and destigmatize mental health, particularly in AAPI communities. And because mental health affects anyone, the website, which includes resources, webinars, a blog and a podcast, is aimed for everyone, from youth to adults, including specific content for parents. “We try to tackle the intergenerational gap in mental health education, so we make sure to develop resources that are appealing to each audience,” says Li.
Earlier this year, Li received a $5,000 award for the creation and work on the website from Prudential as one of 25 winners of the Prudential Emerging Visionary program (which recognizes teens for their innovative solutions to social challenges). What’s equally impressive is that Project Lotus’ staff and directors are all youth.
“A lot of our best feedback comes from parents and adults,” he says. “Many have come to our webinars or read one of our blog posts and sent us emails about the importance of our work and how they wish they had something like Project Lotus when they were younger.”Li says some of his goals are to train mental health professionals to be more culturally competent, and facilitate the creation of in-person chapters at colleges. Right now, anyone interested can get involved with Project Lotus by volunteering, starting a chapter in their high school or college and more.
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