When University Counseling Center (UCC) Staff Psychologist Weiyang Xie, Ph.D., HSPP, alongside three outside collaborators with the national grassroots non-profit organization United Chinese Americans, submitted a grant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), they never thought they would get it due to the high competitiveness of the applicant pool. In fact, they began to console and encourage each other for next year’s application after they submitted the application. Xie was floored when she actually became the finalist. The $432,000 RWJF Clinical Scholars grant, covering a three-year period, will not only give Xie and her collaborators the opportunity to help the Asian community in the U.S., it will also develop Xie and her collaborators as leaders themselves.
Xie’s role with the grant will be to serve as a consulting psychologist for the national United Chinese Americans Youth Mental Health program. She and her collaborators will develop and implement a three-year project to increase mental health awareness, decrease mental health stigma and improve help-seeking attitudes that decrease suicide risk among Asian immigrant families.
Xie and her team’s proposal, Breaking Silences in the Model Minority: A national intervention to increase mental health awareness and decrease stigma in Asian immigrant families, is a national project that will focus on helping Asian American children, young adults (e.g., Asian American college students) and their families.
The project will specifically include:
- developing psychoeducational information for students, families and community
- organizing conversations to promote communications between parents and students
- creating culturally informed bilingual parenting education program
- developing youth and parents leadership councils
- holding webinars focusing on community effort in promoting mental health
- launching mental health-focused social media effort
- developing a sustainability plan including creating a pipeline for future professionals dedicated to community services.
As an only child and an immigrant, Xie came to the U.S. 12 years ago from China for graduate study. She obtained her master’s degree and Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Minnesota. She began working at Notre Dame as a staff psychologist in 2015 at the UCC.
Xie’s primary role as a psychologist at the UCC is to provide clinical services to treat clients (college students) with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and provide suicide intervention/prevention. Her position at ND also focuses on building skills such as time management, emotional regulation and executive functioning to help students build psychological well-being and resilience.
Notre Dame has many Asian American and Asian international students. Xie hopes the project will also benefit these students on our campus. The program will work on the individual level, focusing on the destigmatization of mental health problems and education about mental illness, and suicide prevention; the familial level focusing on improving evidence-based parenting practices, and at the community level focusing on connecting key stakeholders, targeting geographically distributed areas with large populations of immigrant families and creating a national infrastructure to help coordinate efforts and ensure sustainability.
Xie also provides outreach and works with Notre Dame International and other departments to collaborate on programs for international students.“I have a special passion for working with international students. In addition to doing clinical services with them, I also provide workshops such as a workshop on how to deal with racism, microaggression and xenophobia, and I facilitate groups, such as dealing with cultural adjustment, social isolation, effective communication and any issue unique to them.”
“Usually Asian Americans are perceived as the uniformly well-educated racial group with high professional success, and Asian Americans are assumed to be exemplary high-achievers with few or even no psychological challenges,” describes Xie. “But actually a lot of research and studies have shown that Asian American students have a higher rate of suicidal thoughts and attempts than almost all other racial/ethnic groups, but much lower rates of psychiatric diagnoses and treatment.”
Xie says her personal experience allows her to see the struggles of immigrants, especially Chinese immigrant families. “Helping immigrant families and helping international students navigate the system and overcome the barriers is one thing I am passionate about,” she said.
Additionally, the grant will benefit the recipients themselves, in this case Xie and her collaborators — two psychiatrists and a clinical nurse, volunteers with the non-profit organization United Chinese Americans Youth Mental Health program and Center for Cross-Cultural Student Emotional Wellness at Massachusetts General Hospital.
As recipients, the collaborators will benefit from leadership development through the grant. “The mission of the Clinical Scholars program is to equip the health providers from every discipline with leadership tools centered in equity, diversity and inclusion to transform their careers and the health of their communities,” explained Xie.
“We are going to lead and collaborate across sectors, disciplines and settings, and design and implement real-world projects. The Clinical Scholars program will teach recipients to develop high level leadership skills — mentoring, coaching and developing curriculum, and a deep understanding of the root concepts of a health inequity. We’ll learn how to frame issues and field public will to solve the issues and become part of a national network of diverse leaders,” said Xie.