2020 Conference

This program has been cancelled due to new guidelines by the University of Chicago on campus health and safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Break the Silence 2020 will kick off on Friday evening with several performances and a panel discussion featuring the performers at the Center for Identity and Inclusion.

The Saturday conference at Ida Noyes Hall will begin with a keynote speech, followed by three breakout sessions, and conclude with a performance and a resource fair. During each breakout session, participants can attend one of three workshops. Below are full descriptions of each workshops as well as guest bios.


Shame, Self-Compassion, and Affiliative Pride

West Lounge


The Politics of Mental Health

East Lounge




Friday April 10, 2020, 5:30-7:30

Mental Health in Expression: Healing through Art and Performance

Center for Identity and Inclusion


Dinner and Registration

Catering provided by Snail Thai Cuisine




MOET KURAKATA, visual artist

Dr. ADA CHENG, storyteller

JUSTINE SHIH, singer/songwriter

MIMANSA DOGRA, stand-up comedy

KRISTINA KIM, spoken word artist and dancer


Panel Discussion

Saturday April 11, 2020, 9:30-5:00

Ida Noyes Hall


Breakfast and Registration

Ida Noyes Foyer

Catered by Au Bon Pain



Keynote: Getting Effective Mental Health Care to Asian American Students at Risk of Depression

Cloister Club




 Breakout Session #1 

Asian American Mental Health and Wellness on Campus & Decolonizing Mental Health - Reclaiming Wellness Wisdom and Narratives

Cloister Club


College Mental Health Care: A Discussion with SCS

West Lounge


from Student Counseling Services

Millennials: Intergenerational Conflict and Implications for Mental Health

East Lounge

from Sanjeevani

Decolonizing Salvation

3rd Floor Theater




Ida Noyes Library/Lounge

Catered by Potsticker House


 Breakout Session #2 

For All Asians: Pan-Asian Solidarity for Mental Liberation

West Lounge

from MannMukti

Mental Health Intervention in Asian Immigrant Populations

East Lounge



 Breakout Session #3 

Straight to the Heart! Storytelling with Dr. Ada Cheng

3rd Floor Theater



Performance and Reflection

Cloister Club



Reception and Resources Fair

Ida Noyes Library/Lounge

Catered by Bon Appétit


Breakout Session #1

Asian American Mental Health and Wellness on Campus & Decolonizing Mental Health - Reclaiming Wellness Wisdom and Narratives

Led by Dr. HELEN H. HSU

This session will describe the Asian American Wellness Course at Stanford University, as well as the outreach efforts, student advocacy, and community center collaborations designed to respond to the mental health needs of a 22% Asian American student population, as well as a growing International student and Asian Americans of mixed heritage population.

   This session will also seek to expose clinicians to systemic and nuanced ways of thinking about mental health.  Examples from Stanford University, and other community-based programs to begin reclaiming healing narratives and practices will be provided. The Western-centered, colonized values of standard medicalized mental health treatment creates barriers and at times causes harm to marginalized students. This session will highlight frameworks that perpetuate colonial thinking and suppression of cultural values and traditional and community-based models of healing.


Dr. HELEN H. HSU is a staff psychologist, Asian American specialist, and lecturer at Stanford University, immediate Past President of the Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA), and co-chair elect of the American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship Program (APF MFP) Training Advisory Committee.

    Dr. Hsu has also served on the APA Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Expression. As a bi-cultural, bi-lingual clinician, Dr. Hsu has worked within County Behavioral Healthcare, serving populations from K-12 to Geriatric and hospice. Her work has focused primarily on intersectional diverse communities, culturally responsive treatment, parenting education, school-based clinical

services, grief and loss, and the mentorship and leadership training of psychology students. Dr. Hsu has worked extensively in private practice, is a consultant for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and author of several book chapters on clinical topics.

The Politics of Mental Health


SHOBHANA VERMA, Executive Director, South Asian American Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI), works by blending her experience in public policy, outreach, advocacy and public relations.   Most recently she has built and also leads one of the first and most effective South Asian Voter Engagement Programs at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Thanks to her untiring efforts since 2014, unprecedented numbers of South Asian Americans in the city have begun to exercise their right to vote and participate in local, state and federal level electoral process. Prior to joining the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, Shobhana held numerous roles as a researcher, educator, volunteer and journalist advocating for environmental causes and gender and immigrant interests,

including challenging roles supporting victims of sexual exploitation, human trafficking and domestic violence. She has written for and been published in the digital and print media in both the United States and India. Shobhana holds two Masters Degrees in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Cincinnati and Lucknow University. She is a certified Sexual Violence Prevention Educator and is trained in Medical and Legal Advocacy. She is a past student board member of the Cincinnati Chapter of Planned Parenthood. Shobhana is also a member of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Equity that advises the Mayor and City Council of Chicago on policy matters regarding civil rights issues.

   Shobhana has been an active and trusted leader within the South Asian American community in the Greater Chicago Area and strives to continue her work as a researcher, organizer, and strategist on a wide range of human rights and social justice issues with diverse and collaborative coalitions in Chicago and beyond

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VARSHA KALANGARI is working to complete her BBA in Information Systems with a minors in statistics and accounting at Loyola University Chicago and has been involved in research dealing with income inequality. She is currently working with the Information Systems department at Loyola to assess the effectiveness and validity of public bike-sharing programs in low-income communities using data visualization tools. Varsha has a keen interest in the South Asian diaspora and would like to use data-driven solutions and analytics to provide a voice and proper representation for the South Asian community here in the US. At SAAPRI, she is dedicated to bringing awareness to topics that impact the South Asian community as well as combining the areas of data and people to advocate for policy changes.

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South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established in 2001 with the mission to serve South Asian Americans in the Chicago area, by using research to formulate equitable and socially responsible policy recommendations. SAAPRI’s work has included research and policy initiatives on civic engagement, hate crimes, access to health care,

economic development, and immigration. SAAPRI conducts research on emerging issues of importance to South Asian Americans in response to community needs. Projects are designed to create dialogue and better understanding, drawing from SAAPRI’s expertise in community-based research and collaborations with partner organizations, academic institutions, and community members.

   SAAPRI advances public policy by responding to community issues and formulating data-driven solutions. SAAPRI voices the community’s concerns to public officials at the local, state, and national levels; conducts outreach to community members and media; works strategically in cross-racial coalitions; hosts public forums; and participates in speaking engagements to various audiences.

Shame, Self-Compassion, and Affiliative Pride



Breakout Session #2

College Mental Health Care: A Discussion with SCS

Led by Dr. MEETA KUMAR, director of Student Counseling Services

Dr. Meeta Kumar, director of Student Counselling Services (SCS) at the University of Chicago, will be offering her insight on the administrative goals and challenges for providing mental health care to college students, allowing students and community members to better understand the administrative efforts and hurdles toward providing mental health services. This session will begin with a 20-minute presentation by addressing the structure of SCS and its goals, followed by a 40-minute moderated Q&A, where audience members can direct questions to Dr. Kumar. We will end with a 20-minute brainstorming session, where people will synthesize various perspectives on practical ways that SCS could better address the needs of Asian/Asian-American students. We hope that this session will provide a more nuanced understanding of how people can address the issue of providing care.


Dr. MEETA KUMAR is a psychologist and serves as the director of Student Counseling at University of Chicago. She provides administrative oversight of all mental health services provided through Student Counseling and also is a member of the student wellness leadership at the university. She is a key spokesperson for mental health related concerns and works closely with all campus constituencies including faculty, staff, student groups and families. For almost 20 years, Dr. Kumar was at the Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Pennsylvania and served as the deputy executive director and associate director for outreach and prevention. Her areas of interest are impact of culture, identity and marginalization on mental health in clinical and higher education settings; Asian

American/South Asian as well as international/immigrant student concerns; and strategies for community interventions that support mental health and wellbeing of marginalized and underserved students. Dr. Kumar is a national presenter on array of college mental health topics and presents regularly to higher education administrators, faculty, student affairs personnel, mental health professionals and parents. National and local media outlets like The New York Times, NPR Marketplace, and Chronicle of Higher Education among others, have interviewed her. She was adjunct faculty in the Asian American Studies department at the School of Arts and Sciences and received her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

Decolonizing Salvation


U.S. mental health’s preoccupation with individual diagnosis poses a limited potential for healing. Mental health is not only about a discreet individual experience. A decolonial perspective connects individual mental health to the larger historical and collective experiences of systemic, structural, and colonial legacies. This workshop explores U.S. mental health focus on the individual to some popular Christian theological emphasis on individual salvation. Decolonization of mental health means decolonization of several key Christian theological assumptions. Participants will share popular Christian theological narratives they have heard and learn ways to decolonize Christian theology that allows for an understanding of mental health that considers historical and collective traumas.


Dr. WONHEE ANNE JOH is Professor of Theology and Culture at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, the faculty Director of Asian American Ministry Center as well as Faculty Affiliate in the Departments of Religious Studies and Asian American Studies at Northwestern University and member of the research faculty cohort on Religion, Race and Global Politics of the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University.  In addition to numerous articles and chapters, her publications include, Heart of the Cross: A Postcolonial Christology and co-editor of Critical Theology Against US Militarism in Asia: Decolonization and Deimperialization, and Feminist Praxis Against US Militarism. Forthcoming from Fordham University Press is Trauma, Affect and Race. 

Millennials: Intergenerational Conflict and Implications for Mental Health

Led by PROMILA KUMAR and GAURI GOSWAMI with Sanjeevani

With changing lifestyles, stress and depression is on the rise. This has manifested in different ways in the community and one of the demographics most affected is the youth/millennial population. Stress cannot be eliminated completely but it certainly can be managed once we understand the causes and the symptoms. One of the challenges in addressing these issues is the 'stigma' or 'taboo’ nature associated with them. Generations struggle to make a balance, especially if they have not grown in the same environment. This session will talk about these concerns and ways to address it.


PROMILA KUMAR is the founder and Executive Director of Sanjeevani. She has been an IT professional for 25 years and has been actively volunteering and doing social work for the past 18 years in the Chicago area. She has made great voluntary contributions for education, women empowerment, and community awareness and support for mental health concerns. Promila was distinguished as the “Top 20 Global Women of Excellence 2019” by Illinois Congressman Danny Davis for her efforts in furthering Sanjeevani’s mission. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her family. She also runs a theater group and a radio channel. In her free time, she enjoys running, travelling and reading.


GAURI GOSWAMI is a licensed social worker, and actively works to assist millennial and youth demographics in addressing mental health concerns. As a young adult and having grown up in Chicago, she understands the challenges between generations who have not grown in the same environment. She is a volunteer with Sanjeevani.


Sanjeevani 4 U is a 501c (3) non-profit organization, started in 2015 with the objective to provide free counselling, advocacy and support to anyone who is going through mental health concerns or

domestic abuse. The services are provided by trained personnel and are available 24 hours, 7 days a week through phone, emails and in-person interactions. Sanjeevani is manned by more than three dozen volunteers spread across the Chicago area, who can speak in different South Asian languages. Through these endeavors, Sanjeevani forges ahead in its mission to build awareness on mental health and domestic abuse and provide actionable tools to people to make informed choices, which will bring smiles to their lives.


Breakout Session #3

Mental Health Intervention in Asian Immigrant Populations


Professor Yasui will be discussing her research as part of the Social Service Administration, which examines cultural, contextual and familial factors that contribute to mental health disparities among immigrant and ethnic minority populations. In particular, she will discuss the role of treatment engagement in racial and ethnic disparities among immigrant families. Her current project explores culturally specific pathways that may address underlying barriers to mental health service utilization and engagement among immigrant populations. Her research lab will continue both basic and intervention research that examines culturally specific influences on adaptive development among ethnic minority children and youth. 

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PROFESSOR MIWA YASUI received her undergraduate degrees in Comparative Culture from Sophia University in Tokyo and in Psychology at the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of Oregon. She completed her APA-accredited clinical internship at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Psychiatry, Institute for Juvenile Research. During her doctoral studies, she examined the role of implicit associations of stigma as a NIMH Development, Emotion, and Psychopathology as a predoctoral trainee and also developed an innovative observational measure of ethnic-racial socialization as a Predoctoral NIMH National Research Service Awardee. Prior to joining SSA, Professor Yasui completed her NIMH Postdoctoral National Research Service

Award Individual Fellowship during which she developed a culturally enhanced engagement intervention that integrates observational methodology with cultural sensitive clinical probes to increase treatment engagement among ethnic minority families seeking mental health services. Currently she is a Faculty Scholar for the K12 Patient Centered Outcomes Research Faculty Development Award from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Professor Yasui is also a licensed Clinical Psychologist and has been actively engaged in clinical practice during her predoctoral and postdoctoral training.

Straight to the Heart! Storytelling with Dr. Ada Cheng

Led by Dr. ADA CHENG

Do you want to tell stories to connect with people emotionally, to convey meanings with urgency, and to exert impact? In this storytelling workshop, we will discuss central tenets of this art form, such as the story arc, detailed descriptions, emotions (the importance of vulnerability), meanings, relationships with the audience, who you are as a storyteller, and the purpose of storytelling. Participants will have the opportunity to integrate these elements of storytelling and practice them during the session.


Dr. ADA CHENG is a professor-turned-storyteller, solo performer, and storytelling show producer. She performed her solo show NOT QUITE: Asian American by Law, Asian Woman by Desire as the keynote for Women and Girls in Georgia Conference in 2019. She has been featured in storytelling shows and done her two solo performances all over the country. She is the producer and the host of four storytelling shows, including Pour One Out, Am I Man Enough?, Talk Stories: An Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling Show, and Speaking Truths Series. She creates platforms for people to tell difficult and vulnerable stories as well as spaces for people and communities who may not have opportunities otherwise. She currently works as the Education and Outreach Specialist with Women’s

Leadership and Resource Center at UIC, providing training on issues related to gender-based violence. Her interests span multiple fields, including academia, storytelling/performance art, and advocacy. Her motto: Make your life the best story you tell. Check out her website: www.renegadeadacheng.com

For All Asians: Pan-Asian Solidarity for Mental Liberation

Led by SHIVANI PARIKH from MannMukti

Asian American spaces, whether for organizing or healing, are often characterized by imbalances in representation and inclusion when considering national origin, ethnicity, and faith. How might we structure spaces intentionally to include and support East, West, South, and Southeast Asians? Through the themes of knowledge, community, and power, this workshop seeks to start a dialogue to share and learn about war and intergenerational trauma that continue to affect immigrants and their children’s mental health; centering vulnerability over performing model minority conception of “success”; and learning about moments of collective action from Asian American histories as well as recent incidents that affect Asian Americans’ sense of belonging and justice. Through grounding our leadership and design of collegiate mental health dialogues in an understanding of global and local systems of oppression, identity, and mutual understanding, we can work to ensure that Asian and Asian American students can enter spaces without feeling that they need to explain, justify, or relive aspects of their experiences or personal histories and instead are a part of our broadened collective understanding of transnational and diasporic realities.​

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SHIVANI PARIKH is the Vice President of University Chapters at MannMukti, the News & Politics Editor at Hyphen Magazine, and a young Cornell University alumna. While at Cornell, Shivani was the President of South Asian Council and founded the South Asian Mentorship Program. She has led workshops and teach-ins at the East Coast Asian American Student Union’s annual conference, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum’s annual conference, the Asian American Studies Summit at the University of Pennsylvania, and recently was a panelist at Yale's South Asian Solidarity Initiative. She currently serves on Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic’s Emerging Leaders’ Council and is a founding member of the Cornell Asian Alumni Association’s South Asian Alumni Outreach and Engagement Committee.

MANNMUKTI (“mental liberation”) is a 501(c)3 storytelling platform that enables South Asians to normalize and discuss mental health. We emphasize sharing stories of mental illness to create a new narrative of compassion and acceptance. By highlighting the many different forms mental illness takes within our community, we hope to reduce the collectivist pressure to sweep these issues under the rug.



Loving Myself With/In A Thousand Cuts

Dr. ADA CHENG, Storyteller

In this performance, Ada will weave various stories to highlight the myriad impact on one's mental health of family violence, micro-aggression, and structural violence in society. She aims to use these stories to demonstrate how these different sources and spheres of violence can collectively shape our self identity and our state of well-being as we navigate the world as Asian Americans.  


Dr. ADA CHENG is a professor-turned-storyteller, solo performer, and storytelling show producer. She performed her solo show NOT QUITE: Asian American by Law, Asian Woman by Desire as the keynote for Women and Girls in Georgia Conference in 2019. She has been featured in storytelling shows and done her two solo performances all over the country. She is the producer and the host of four storytelling shows, including Pour One Out, Am I Man Enough?, Talk Stories: An Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling Show, and Speaking Truths Series. She creates platforms for people to tell difficult and vulnerable stories as well as spaces for people and communities who may not have opportunities otherwise. She currently works as the Education and Outreach Specialist with Women’s

Leadership and Resource Center at UIC, providing training on issues related to gender-based violence. Her interests span multiple fields, including academia, storytelling/performance art, and advocacy. Her motto: Make your life the best story you tell. Check out her website: www.renegadeadacheng.com

Moet Kurakata, Changing Tides visual artist

I’d like to share my story on my eating disorder, and the importance of art (drawing and painting) as a means of communication both during my struggle in high school and recovery since then. I’d also like to share the importance of art in the community at large through talking about Changing Tides and our month-long mental health art exhibition last February, “CT x FSN Mental Health Pop-up,” and its impact.


MOET KURAKATA is currently a pre-nursing student in Santa Monica, California. Upon graduating from UCLA with a BA in Anthropology and a minor in Cognitive Science, she took a gap year to work closely with the Japanese American community in Los Angeles both through working at a Japanese American arts and cultural community nonprofit, and being one of the founding members of Changing Tides, an organization that aims to destigmatize mental health in the Asian American community. During her time at UCLA, she was also part of the Active Minds UCLA Chapter and the Nikkei Student Union, the Japanese American cultural club on campus. She’s decided to pursue nursing as a mental health advocate in recovery from her own eating disorder, who is passionate about the physical, emotional, and mental well-being! 

Justine Shih, singer/songwriter

In this performance, Justine uses music as an avenue to explore vulnerability. She hopes to use her voice to highlight the intersection of mental health and identity through her lyrics and melodies.

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JUSTINE SHIH is a singer-songwriter from Columbus, Ohio currently in her third year at UChicago studying Neuroscience and Music. She grew up classically trained in piano and violin, and has played with the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra, for which she served as concertmaster. Later, she picked up songwriting and taught herself guitar, writing music about love, loss, life, and anything that tells a story. She performed in the Amber Rooms Tour, an intimate room tour around Illinois, in 2019, and puts on quarterly showcases with The Underground Collective, a collaborative performance group. She won the grand prize of the first annual UChicago’s Got Talent competition last year and has won national awards for piano composition.

Kristina Kim, spoken word artist and dancer


KRISTINA "KRIS" KIM is a Soviet-raised Korean American, born in Uzbekistan and brought up in Brooklyn, NY. Fascinated by the power of expression through various mediums, she hopes to continue living to explore tense issues of identity/love/belonging through writing, spoken word, and dance. She has writing in The Foundationalist, Creative Communications, and other places. Her work with spoken word has led her to be a finalist for Young Chicago Authors’ “Louder Than A Bomb University Slam”, a finalist/honorable mention at Korean American Story’s “ROAR: Story Slam”, a performer/winner of Fuse Her Fly’s anniversary show, and the March 2020 feature for Luya Poetry’s monthly open mic. As for dance, she’s

been dancing all her life but was most notably a choreographer/founding member of a competitive junior urban dance team, Stuy Legacy. The team of high schoolers made a unique name for themselves in the NYC dance community and won numerous awards and competitions. Bringing her passion for dance to Chicago, Kris has served as Co-Artistic Director of UChicago’s Ex Crew and has trained with Boom Crack Dance Company last summer. She is currently a second-year student at the University of Chicago studying public policy, creative writing, and human rights. 

Mimansa Dogra, stand up comedian



This piece is about the relationship between survival and the mental health struggle we may go through in times of crisis. Whether it be grief, sorrow, or the constant battle that many of us face with our mental state, support from loved ones in these instances provides a foundation for the ability to cope with these situations. Sometimes that is the strength that we need to come out the other end, and sometimes we need more… This piece also demonstrates that you never know what is going on in one's life so you should try to come from a place of kindness and empathy toward others.


NARI DANCE COMPANY is dedicated to creating a community of dance, individual expression, and philanthropy, while increasing awareness of South Asian-American dance styles.

   The word Nari translates to “woman” in Hindi. But the word means much more than that. This word holds so much value, especially today, where women are speaking up and coming together to create an even louder, influential voice. The dance company hopes to create an environment for women to express themselves without judgement and to create and grow together.


Getting Effective Mental Health Care to Asian American Students at Risk of Depression


The mental health needs of Asian American young people are frequently overlooked and undertreated.  This keynote will present research over the last 10 years shedding light on the stark disparities in mental health treatment for Asian American students and the apparent causes of these disparities.  It is clear that major community-based efforts are needed to close the gap between mental health need and the provision of effective and accessible care for Asian American youth. Dr. Lau will also present research that has identified and tested promising interventions to address common and pressing mental health problems among Asian American students.  In particular, she will focus on efforts to deliver evidence-based treatments to Asian American students in school settings. 

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Dr. ANNA LAU is a Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UCLA in 2000 where she worked as a graduate student in the National Research Center on Asian American Mental Health with Dr. Stanley Sue.  After postdoctoral training at the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center at Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego, she returned to UCLA as a faculty member in 2003. Her current research spans across the areas of disparities in children’s mental health services, cultural variation in risk and protective factors for child psychopathology, and community implementation of evidence-based practices for ethnic minority youth and families. Dr. Lau’s work on risk and protective factors for

youth in Asian American immigrant families is informing efforts to implement school-based interventions for adolescents at risk of depression and suicide.  Dr. Lau’s ongoing research is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health.  Dr. Lau also trains doctoral students in the use of evidence-based practices for youth, and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses related to Asian American Mental Health and the Psychology of Diversity.