Who or what inspires you?
Lots of people inspire me. I’m very fortunate. I can say my parents. This might be a weird response, but everyday stories of hope and resiliency inspire me, when people have overcome adversity. In my role as a Behavioral Health Director, I have heard client stories where some may think it’s hopeless and then things shift differently. Also, the kindness of people, big and small. Sometimes it’s not significant in the sense that it’s life-changing, like if I’m struggling and a staff member happens to bring me a cookie. They didn’t have to do that. That’s inspiring to me. I want to honor that people still do that. Even if they’re worried about their future or their daily lives. These acts of kindness really inspire.
What would you say is the biggest challenge we face working to improve the overall mental health and well-being of our communities?
The need is bigger than what we currently have resources to support. I think it comes from a systemic perspective that we should really have a continuum of services that’s effective and welcoming to anybody, whatever part of the continuum they’re at. So some that are already in our system get care that is really aligned with their values and culture and their family. And then for folks that are hopefully in recovery, being able to provide resources as they are recovering and slowly going back to the community. And on the other end of that spectrum is prevention and management for folks, so that we can help give them the resources to prevent them from going into high-need services. We need a coordination of services and a spectrum of services that meets people where they’re at, providing culturally responsive services. And that they feel, as clients or participants, that they’re getting what we need. It’s really shifting our system of services of care that is a more client-centered approach.
Can you share something you’re proud of?
What’s important for me is I really try to live a life that is authentic. I’m working hard to be authentic with my values and how I embrace my lived experience — growing up in a different country, from the Philippines, and my own gender identity. I’m proud of embracing all of that, the high points, the low points, the neutral points in my life. Really embracing who I am. One of the things I’m proud of, because of all that, is the activism in me. I feel I’m an effective change agent in whatever place or space I’m in. Some of it is small, like in changing one person’s life or a family’s life. From a systems perspective, changing systems to be more equitable and making them more welcoming to folks. I’m proud of the work we’ve done in San Mateo County where, together with a group of folks, we helped to create the first-ever LBGTQ Pride Center. I have always been a strong advocate on equity issues. I’m proud of that and in being really authentic in trying to create visibility to our underserved populations, and putting in equity and racial justice and social justice in what I do in our work.
What do you personally do to take care of your mental health? Can you share one or more of your self-care activities?
I am a wannabe foodie. I enjoy good food. That’s important to me. I like listening to music. I like musicals, Broadway shows. I recently watched “Hamilton” five times! I take walks. I’m a photographer. I have not had a lot of time to do that but I’m slowly returning back to that. You can focus on the stillness of the moment.
What gives you hope for the future?
My hope for the future is that we can come together, celebrate our differences, put aside our own individual needs and think of a collective future that benefits all of us. At the end of the day, it’s really about the clients and their families so that they can thrive. I wish for our future that we are collectively looking at wellness together, not just individually, but as a community. That we are continuously healing. Because healing, in my opinion, is not a one-time thing. That we heal as a community together so that we look out for each other. That people feel a sense of accountability and responsibility for each other, that they look out of other people and not just themselves. I feel that elevates healing differently, when you’re not just focusing on “me” and when you are healing together with a community and the community looks out for you too.