For the last few years, Sahaj Kohli, who is the founder of Brown Girl Therapy and a therapist in training, has had one persistent goal: to make mental healthcare more accessible to immigrants and children of immigrants.
Kohli founded Brown Girl Therapy in 2019 to help people in immigrant communities who often have a tough time getting access to mental healthcare. And this BIPOC Mental Health Month, she began the Therapy Fund to address the gap in this type of care for immigrants and children of immigrants. Recently, BuzzFeed spoke with Kohli about her efforts.
Kohli told us that before launching her fund, she asked more than 20,000 people what the most difficult part of getting therapy was. She found that stigma and a lack of diversity among available therapists were large factors, but financial cost was the number one barrier, saying, “It goes back to resources, democratizing mental health, and creating content around how to access it.”
Kohli is self-funding the first cohort of recipients. While she hopes to turn this effort into a bigger, more sustainable fund over time, she believes that this work is impactful, even on a small scale: "If I can help these five people learn how to access therapy and learn how to heal themselves, I will consider it a success."
Kohli explained that in addition to the financial barriers they face, children in immigrant families tend to brush off their problems as invalid: "They are often feeling the pressure from their parents to be really successful in traditional ways, and [they also feel] that their problems are never going to be as bad as their parents', even if it's not a malicious comparison."
According to one study, children of at least one foreign-born parent experience nearly double the rate of psychological stress compared with their immigrant parents. But many times, those stressors are left unaddressed, Kohli told us, adding, "You have people who are left struggling in silence, being overwhelmed by shame, and not knowing how to get out of the sadness or the despair that they might be feeling."
Kohli hopes her efforts will raise awareness and teach people how to properly care for themselves: "On one side, I really want for this community to feel seen and to feel like they deserve quality care. But on the other side, I really want to raise awareness about the mental health struggles of immigrants and children of immigrants."
Kohli said it's important that people don't ignore the problems they're facing, whether in the workplace or at home with family. She emphasized, "Pursuing healing in any way, whether it is interrupting communication patterns that aren't healthy, learning how to deal with conflict, or seeking therapy, [will allow] everyone in that person's life to benefit from this person seeking healing."
To learn more about Kohli's Therapy Fund and find other mental health resources, visit Brown Girl Therapy on Instagram.
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