A new mental health program at UH addresses the needs of Indigenous people.


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HONOLULU (Hawaii News Now) – As thousands of college students adjust to life on campus after two years of distance learning, some feel more mental health services are needed.

Recent studies show that more than half of American college students struggle with depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders — a crisis that has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic and disproportionately affected Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students.

Last semester was a tough one for UH junior Kai LaGuardia. Pressured to succeed, she tried to enroll in the university’s free counseling service, but access was limited.

“It seems like a very long wait because you have people who want access to things,” said LaGuardia, who said students will attend. Limited to seven free sessions before being directed to an outside clinic.

A UHS spokeswoman said the wait time for a session is about 2 weeks — shorter if it’s a crisis — and better than waiting months at outside clinics.

New this semester – a mental health program for Indigenous students and their behavioral health needs.

“There’s definitely a big stigma around mental health, especially in Native Hawaiian, Native American, and Pacific Islander communities, you get over it and you’re fine and you just focus on being with your family and you’re fine,” LaGuardia said.

But sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. And when you have other factors that come into play, like first-generation students or students graduating in the first place, the statistics are on them. I think all of that is because you keep it to yourself and sometimes that seems unhealthy.

Dr. Jillian Freitas is the program director of KA Malu a Wa’ahila, JABSOM, which offers free therapy services, monthly group support sessions and self-help tools. Counseling sessions will be held with UH Manoa. Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC)

“Historically, they don’t have Native Hawaiian or Pacific Island clinics. And so students may not feel comfortable coming to people who don’t understand their background,” she says. “Our clinicians are both trained in traditional Western psychological practices, but we look at health from an indigenous perspective.”

This means that practitioners provide culturally appropriate treatments that take into account historical and intergenerational trauma.

“Historically, Hawaiians have been disenfranchised, and you know, placed in places where access to higher education is not very possible,” said UHH PhD English and Cultural Advisor Kaipu Baker. “Giving them purpose, getting them to improve their community, not only improves their mental health, but improves their overall well-being and direction in life.”

“Looking at historical and intergenerational trauma, and the trauma of colonized populations,” Dr. Freitas said. This may be seen as a collective sadness and grief. Alongside this, we truly believe in indigenous resilience and indigenous happiness. And I think there are a lot of strengths that we have as a community to highlight that and to highlight those ways of coping for our students.

“It’s a connection to place, a connection to sight, a connection to your past and future, a connection to your community and a connection to your better self. And we see how we think about security as our driving force,” she added.

For more information about UH Manoa’s counseling services, Click here.

Here is a list of mental health services offered at UH Manoa:

  • Free mental health services for UH Manoa students are provided by mental health professionals at UH Manoa Counseling and Student Development Center (CSDC)
  • Services include brief individual, couple, and group counseling, crisis intervention, peer support, outreach, and referrals to on-campus resources and community service providers.
  • Normal services will continue to be provided through Amplification.
  • Scheduled appointments are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m
  • Center is located in Room 312 of the Queen Lili’uokalani Student Services Center.
  • Students may call (808) 956-7927 to schedule an initial telephone appointment with a counselor.
  • This year, all UH Mānoa students will have access as well. Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), a collection of online educational programs with engaging videos, animations and interactive activities that use evidence-based content to address common mental health issues. Students have anonymous, Free access Using their UH email address.

Student housing counseling services

  • Student housing residents b Counselor in residence (CIR) program
  • CIRs are counselors who live and work on campus and are available to provide on-site counseling, workshops, and seminars to student housing residents and provide crisis intervention, referral services, counseling, and training to housing staff.
  • Student housing residents may consult with CIR by calling CSDC: (808) 956-7927, Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm.
  • Counselors are available after 4:30 p.m Working days and 24 hours weekends and holidays And it can be reached by contacting most residence hall staff, including a Resident Assistant (RA), RA on-call, or Residence Director.
  • CIRs typically respond within 15 minutes, and are on site to meet with students.

Direct line

UH Manoa students may choose to call the Hawai’i Crisis Line at (808) 832-3100.

· The Hawaii Crisis Line handles all types of mental health crisis inquiries 24 hours a day/7 days a week and can respond appropriately to inquiries about suicide, accidents and other mental health crises.

· For referrals to other community resources, students can call ASK-2000 (275-2000).


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