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Susan Chung: Talks About her Career in Mental Health and BIPOC Mental Health Month Ep 196

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

July is BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) Mental Health Month, which is also known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, named for the mental health advocate who brought awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness in the US.

I’ve invited Susan Chung on to Talking Taiwan to talk about her career in mental health, and BIPOC Mental Health Month. Susan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, who provides psychotherapy specifically to BIPOC students. We also spoke about key statistics and research findings that inform us about the mental health of Asians, some of the unique challenges facing BIPOC communities and individuals, the racism that Susan has experienced as a mental health professional, and the importance of managing our own mental health.


This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by NATWA, the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association.



NATWA was founded in 1988, and its mission is:


  1. to evoke a sense of self-esteem and enhance women’s dignity,
  2. to oppose gender discrimination and promote gender equality,
  3. to fully develop women’s potential and encourage their participation in public affairs,
  4. to contribute to the advancement of human rights and democratic development in Taiwan,
  5. to reach out and work with women’s organizations worldwide to promote peace for all.


To learn more about NATWA visit their website:


Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:

  • How Susan got interested in studying mental health and social work
  • How Susan realized that there’s a need to have more Asians represented in mental health
  • Susan’s work with forensic social work and how it is different from social work
  • Susan’s work with survivors of human trafficking
  • Susan’s career path
  • Susan has worked with middle school-aged kids in addition to college kids
  • How Susan manages the impact that dealing with victims of human trafficking could have on her own mental health
  • How Susan continues to do forensic social work since moving from New York to North Carolina by accompanying police on raids
  • How Susan felt about being the only Asian-identifying therapist among Black-identifying therapists at the University of North Carolina counseling center
  • Work-related trauma that Susan has experienced
  • Susan’s work experience at the University of North Carolina
  • Susan’s experiences living in Irvine, California, New York City and North Carolina
  • In 2017, according to the Office of Minority Health, the leading cause of death in young Asian Americans in the US was suicide. Citation: Matsuoka, J. K., Breaux, C., & Ryujin, D. H. (1997). National utilization of mental health services by Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders. Journal of Community Psychology, 25(2), 141-145. doi:10.1002/(sici)1520-6629(199703);2-0
  • Susan’s research at University of California, Irvine about the higher rate of depression and suicidal thoughts amongst Asian-identifying students
  • The rates of reported and diagnosed mental illness are low for Asian Americans compared to Euro-Americans, averaging between 5-12% Citation:
  • According to the nonprofit organization Mental Health America, Asian Americans are the least likely racial group in the United States to seek mental health services
  • Susan’s work in the children’s psychiatric department of a hospital and how many of the students referred to her were Asian, and none had voluntarily sought help for themselves
  • Challenges that BIPOC experience that could affect their mental health
  • Resources provided by Mental Health of America’s web page for BIPOC Mental Health Month
  • How the 2021 BIPOC Mental Health Month tool kit acknowledged that the Western medical model is based on evidence-based approaches (which can be problematic especially for BIPOC)
  • Susan talked about how her Asian-identifying clients often have psychosomatic symptoms that are indicative of a mental health-related issue
  • Mental illness doesn’t have to be about an illness or having a condition like depression, being bipolar, having PTSD, etc.
  • The stigmatization of mental health
  • De-stigmatizing mental health by changing the language we use or referring to it as mental wellness
  • How the pandemic has impacted people’s mental health and the research that Susan did related to this
  • Susan’s thoughts on the Atlanta spa shooting in March of 2021
  • Tips to manage and assess our own mental health
  • What can we do to support friends and family who may be struggling with their mental health
  • The racism that Susan has experienced as a mental health professional
  • The vicarious trauma Susan felt in dealing with a student who was the target of an Asian hate crime at UNC
  • How racial injustice and systemic injustice can affect BIPOC communities
  • Challenges faced by indigenous communities and how they may have some nonevidence-based practices that are therapeutic
  • While Susan has dealt with Black and Latinx students, she doesn’t want to make any generalizations about BIPOC communities or their mental health


Related Links:


Susan Chung’s website:


Susan on Instagram:


Susan on LinkedIn:


Mental Health of America’s web page for BIPOC Mental Health Month:


March 16, 2021 Atlanta Spa Shootings:


What is vicarious trauma:—vicarious-trauma.pdf


A Discussion with Dr. Eunice Yuen About Asian American Mental Health (Episode 93):


This Is My Brain in Love: A Conversation With Author I.W. Gregorio (Episode 87):

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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