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Silent War: Asian American Reckonings with Mental Health Event Coverage

Written by CAPA-JRC reporters Angela Shen, Kylie Zhang, Zayne Sun

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) partnered with the Asian American Health initiative to hold the “Silent War: Asian American Reckonings with Mental Health” event. MCPS held a screening of the film “Silent War” at Wootton High School on January 24th, 2024, which stars Sandy Chan and her challenge with mental health as an Asian American. She hopes to spread awareness of mental health difficulties among Asian Americans. The JRC has interviewed important stakeholders who gave their thoughts and opinions about this event.


Council Members: Gabe Albornoz & Will Jawando

Council Member Gabe Albornoz is the chair of Montgomery County’s Health and Human Services Committee, a part of the Education and Culture Committee, and one of the at-large members. Council Member Will Jawando is the chair of the Education and Culture Committee, a part of the Planned Housing Committee, and an at-large member. The two council members were panelists during the Silent War event and expressed their empathy for the ongoing Asian American mental health crisis.

Q1: “What’s your role?”

Council Member Gabe Albornoz: “My name is Gabe Albornoz. I’m one of the eleven members of the county council, I’m one of the 4 at-large members, and I chair the county’s health and human services committee, I also serve on the education and culture committee with my friend, Council Member Will Jawando.

Council Member Will Jawando: “I am council member Will Jawando, I’m one of the at-large members also and I chair the education and culture committee, and I’m on the planning housing and eco- oh excuse me, sorry I am no longer on the Economic Development Committee.”

Q2: “Why did you guys choose to be a council member?

Council Member Jawando: “It is one of those things where both of us have been in public service in different ways, wanting to help people in either government or nonprofit, and I think I saw it as a way to continue to help my community, I grew up here and we’re raising our families here, and I wanted to serve. That’s kind of the short answer.”

Council Member Albornoz: “Yeah, I agree with Council Member Jawando, I would also say I worked in county government for 12 years, and the Council is a unique place as it sort of the intersection between the public, private, and nonprofit sector, and so it gives you a chance to have this unique perspective across the whole county and make not just small changes, but systemic change, so I enjoy that part of it too.”

Q3: “Can you give us a brief description of your job?”

Council Member Albornoz: “Sure! So the county council; there are 11 county council members, and we have 4 primary duties. The first thing that we do is pass the county’s budget, which is over 6 billion dollars. The second thing is we pass local laws, so we are kind of like the Congress of the local government. The third thing we do is land use and planning, so we help decide the density of communities, the heights of buildings, and kind of the masterplan for how the county will be built out. But the fourth part of it, which is my favorite, is the constituent services. So when county residents come to us and have a problem or even an idea that they want to follow up on, we can help them with those problems and point them in the right direction.”

Q4: “What do you hope to achieve as a council member?”

Council Member Jawando: “Well, going in line with what we do, we are trying to pull those levers to help people have better lives. This is a great community, and this event is an example of us focusing on issues impacting those in the community; mental health in the Asian American community is an example. We have over a million people and we are super diverse, four of the top ten most diverse cities in the country are in this county. We are in one right now, and so our goal is to make sure that everyone can have a part of the great things in Montgomery County like helping more vulnerable people, those who are experiencing homelessness, or dealing with mental health issues, or going down the list. We want to make sure that you guys and your peers get a great education. So we are kind of trying to steer the ship of the county in the right way to help the most people, and that's gratifying. 


Montgomery County Public School Psychologist: Farrah Jones

Farrah Jones, a dedicated mental health coordinator in psychological services for Montgomery County public schools. Farrah has been a crucial figure in planning the silent war event at Wootton High School. Through her role, she has worked tirelessly to enhance psychological support within the school system, providing invaluable assistance during challenging times. Farrah's commitment to fostering mental well-being has made a significant impact, creating a positive and supportive environment for students and contributing to the overall mental health landscape at Wootton High School and beyond.

Q1: “What is your job?”

Mrs. Jones: “A mental health coordinator in psychological services for Montgomery County public schools.”

Q2: “ Why did you choose this job?”

Mrs. Jones: “I chose this job because I love mental health and I'm an advocate. I used to be a music teacher and I saw all of the needs students need for mental health, so I went back to school to become a counselor. About 6 years ago after doing music for 20 years, I wanted to help kids more in the counseling aspect. I did school counseling, worked with elementary schools and middle schools, and decided I wanted to do more programming types of things, like this event here to help destigmatize mental health and make sure every community knows how to get the resources.

Q3: “What was it like putting together this event?”

 Mrs. Jones: “I had a great team so that was the easier part. We partnered with Montgomery Asian American Health Initiative and so we used all of our resources to put this event together and then reached out to the community centers, and they reached out to somebody else to help put up a table, our panelists were awesome today, one of the speakers is the participate in the film that we are going to be watching and she is willing to come to tell her story to us to help us see it from a first hand, someone telling you their story is different from just reading about it.”

Q4: “What are you trying to achieve by putting together this event?”

Mrs. Jones: “We are trying to make mental health as normal as getting help for physical health, if you break your arm you're not going to make those excuses and go to the doctor and there are certain things with our mental health, even if its mental wellness, stress, people don't think about stress as being a mental health issue, but that is one of the big ones, how to I cope with stress? We want people to know number 1 what it is, number 2 to recognize in themselves, and number 3 when and where to go for help.


Mental Health Advocate: Sandy Chen

Sandy Chen is a mental health advocate who works hard to spread knowledge about mental health issues. Throughout her childhood, Sandy Chen faced many hardships dealing with her mental health. She feels it is important to educate people about the harsh realities of mental health and that it shouldn’t be shameful to ask for help or speak up. She stars in an upcoming documentary about her mental health struggles: Silent War.

Q1: “Do you ever get nervous talking about mental health?”

Sandy Chen: “Yes I do get nervous. I was nervous before and I’m still nervous right now, but I say that talking about it helps me on my journey to healing as well. There were times that I shared what I went through and I think that speaking up helped. And to me, that’s the most important thing, like there's one person that changes [unintelligible]. That’s why I continue to do this, even though I do get nervous and I get very anxious, but I trust that I am making a difference and I want people to know that they deserve to be here and that they are loved.”

This article was provided by the Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 25 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.

Instagram: @capa_jrc

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