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Looking at Mental Health Care For Families Through a Cultural Lens

February 9, 2023 @ 9:45 am - 12:00 pm



The pandemic served as a call to step up mental health services and support for New Jersey children and families.

We will explore how cultural differences and mental health disparities can influence the treatments, coping mechanisms, and supports available to our diverse communities.

Learn about some of the barriers specific to families and providers navigating New Jersey’s mental health system in our Chinese American, South Asian, Black/African American, and Latinx/Hispanic communities.


Panelists will provide a window to some of the challenges they faced when caring for relatives with various mental health conditions and the solutions that have helped them cope with the emotional challenges of caretaking.

Agenda for the day:

9:45 A.M. CHECK-IN

Eunice I. Salton, NJ CPAC Vice-Chair
Jennifer Hughes, LCSW, NAMI NJ Associate Director of Program Quality Assurance

Jennifer Hughes, LCSW
There are important cultural differences between Chinese American, South Asian, Black/African American and Latinx families that may influence how each population thinks about mental health and responds when a family member struggles with a mental health condition. We will take a closer look at some of the cultural norms, traditions, values and beliefs that may serve as barriers to mental health care. We will explore how race, language, gender, sexual identity and immigration status can impact willingness to participate in preventative treatments, enter New Jersey’s mental healthcare system and take part in community support groups.

Jennifer Hughes, Moderator
• Laxman Kanduri, SAMHAJ (South Asian)
• Maria del Carmen Rodriguez, NAMI NJ en Español (Latinx)
• Donna Williams, AACT-NOW (African American)
• John Zhang, CAMHOP (Chinese American)

Panelists from four different cultures will share their stories of how caretaking for a family member with mental illness has affected their lives. They will discuss the impact on family dynamics; the emotional and financial strains of finding appropriate providers and services; educating themselves about mental health conditions; the difficulties in navigating healthcare and school systems; encountering stigma and the relief at discovering support groups where they can talk with their peers about their daily struggles.
You will learn practical strategies that our panelists have found to be effective for supporting a friend or family member with a mental illness and engaging and building collaboration with diverse families experiencing mental health issues.

11:35 A.M. Q&A
Eunice Salton, Moderator

Eunice Salton
Jennifer Hughes

About the hosts and moderators:

EUNICE I. SALTON is a Dispute Resolution Specialist in the New York State Unified Court System mediating in various New York courts, as well as arbitrating in the New York State Lemon Law Arbitration and New York State Part 137 Attorney-Client Fee Dispute Resolution Programs. In addition to participating in the New York Federal Executive Board Shared Neutrals Program, she mediates in Middlesex County New Jersey Municipal courts and serves as a mentor, conflict coach and mediator in the Community Dispute Resolutions Centers (CDRC) in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Manhattan. Additionally, she is a delegate to the United Nations representing Mediators Beyond Borders International (MBBI). Her corporate background includes executive positions at Simon & Schuster, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Cavillo, Schevack & Partners Advertising. She is Vice Chair of NJ CPAC; sits on the District VIII Ethics Committee for Middlesex County, NJ; serves as a member of the New York Women’s Forum (WFNY) Education Fund Advisory Board; and is a past National Council member of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, MN. She holds an E.d.S. from Florida Atlantic University, an MS from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BA from William Paterson University.

JENNIFER HUGHES, LCSW, is the Associate Director of Program Quality Assurance at the National Alliance on Mental Illness of NJ (NAMI NJ). She has been with NAMI NJ since 2019 and has worked in the social work field for seven years. Jennifer oversees NAMI NJ’s education, support and outreach programming; including, programs specialized for families and those living with a mental illness. Additionally, Jennifer supervises NAMI NJ’s multicultural outreach programs throughout the state. As an Associate Director, Jennifer focuses on program development, evaluation, and expansion across diverse populations. She collaborates with community partners across New Jersey to increase awareness of mental illness.
Jennifer completed her Masters of Science in Social Work at Columbia University in 2015. She began her career as a mental health clinician and program manager at the School-Based Youth Services Program in New Brunswick, NJ. In addition to her work at NAMI NJ, Jennifer works as a therapist at a private practice in Middlesex County, NJ, where she works with children, adolescents, adults, and families.

About the panelists:

Laxman Kanduri is a board member of NAMI NJ and an active volunteer and advisory committee member of its SAMHAJ multicultural program. Laxman became involved in NAMI NJ when a previously high-functioning child’s college education was disrupted on experiencing a mental health crisis. When one family member is affected by mental illness, everyone in the family is like to have an emotional response. Through its family and caregiver programs, NAMI NJ was there to provide the Laxman family with support and education as they found themselves navigating bewildering circumstances. As a result of their experiences, Laxman became an advocate for South Asian families undergoing similar journeys. He is a strong proponent of community help and support because the nature of the disease is such that there’s no easy solution, treatment or therapy that actually exists in a perfect sense, coupled with the unpalatable fact that it affects people of all ages, and from all walks of life. Laxman believes it is crucial that the mentally ill receive steady attention, support and understanding from all members of society,

Maria del Carmen Rodriguez, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, NJ-DRCC is a mental health professional-educator passionate about developing, promoting and providing mental health services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and encourage the growth of healthy New Jersey communities. She recently retired as a full-time, tenured faculty member of the Department of Counselor Education at Nathan Weiss Graduate College/Kean University. Maria has presented her research on culturally inclusive counseling and the role of a community’s cultural belief system in progressive mental health care to national and international counseling conferences. Maria is the immediate past president (2021-2022) of the NJ Counseling Association. Her community involvement includes being a chair-elect of the North Atlantic Region of the American Counseling Association and board member for the Puerto Rican Organization for Community Education and Economic Development (Proceed), an agency serving children, adolescents, adults and seniors in Union County; and board member for the Kean Graduate Council Advisory Board. She also consults with New Jersey mental health agencies on how to best serve diverse clients in marginalized/oppressive circumstances.
Maria graduated from New York University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and National Certified Counselor (NCC) and has her NJ Disaster Response Crisis Counseling Certification (NJ-DRCC).

Donna E. William is committed to altering the stigma of mental illness, encouraging others to join her as agents and advocates for system changes and supporting and educating family members struggling to care for family members and loved ones with mental illness. Donna’s involvement in NAMI NJ stems from her experiences growing up with a bipolar mother and becoming her caretaker as an adolescent. She has been active in NAMI NJ for more than ten years and is the recipient of the NAMI NJ 2020 Multicultural Program Recognition Award for her commitment and passion in serving New Jersey’s diverse communities.
Donna currently serves as the Southern Regional Coordinator of NAMI NJ and co-facilitator of the AACT-NOW Family Support Group. She is a certified instructor in NAMI NJ’s Family-to-Family program and has participated in numerous workshops from the caretaker’s perspective.. Donna retired from the New York City Transit Authority in 2013. She attended the Taylor Business Institute and SUNY at Old Westbury College of New York. Her educational background is in Business Management. Additionally, she completed John Maxwell’s Coaching and Leadership Certification.

John Zhang became a member of NAMI New Jersey in 2016 and has been a member of the NAMI NJ Board of Trustees since 2019. Like many NAMI NJ volunteers, he became become involved when a family member, in this instance his adult son, experienced mental illness symptoms and was diagnosed with a mental health condition. After graduating from the NAMI NJ Family-to-Family class in 2016, John became a trained instructor and has since co-instructed multiple Family-to-Family classes. Through these classes and his attendance at CAMHOP First Family Group Support meetings, he has met many other individuals and families undergoing the challenges of supporting and caring for a loved family member with mental illness. Serving the NAMI NJ and CAMHOP community has been a challenging and rewarding experience for him, helped him feel connected, and ultimately become a better caregiver for his son.
Besides his volunteer work with NAMI NJ, John is a computer scientist/professor working in a major public university in New York City. He lives in Hunterdon County with his lovely family and has two grandkids.

Register: https://njcip.wufoo.com/forms/z1ihac161dropkn/


February 9, 2023
9:45 am - 12:00 pm
Event Category:


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