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LA Times Filipino American mental health story #3
The third story in this series explores the importance of openly and honestly talking about substance use to address the issue.
Before sending out today’s newsletter, I checked the archives to find that the last newsletter I sent was five months ago. I’ve been away from this space a lot longer than I thought, so I’m happy to finally have some news to share:
The third of four stories in my LA Times series on Filipino American mental health, supported by The Carter Center, was published today.
You can read the story here.
In case you missed the first two installments or need a refresher, you can find the series here.
This article was the most challenging one in the series to write. (At least so far.) I expected it to be hard because I knew coming in that there was a glaring lack of data about substance use among Filipino Americans. But that wasn’t the only hurdle.
To offset the absence of substantial research, I had planned to lean heavily on findings in the focus group that I held for this piece. Participants in the group were noticeably more hesitant about sharing, so I wasn’t able to reference that discussion in the story. It was also challenging to find people willing to be interviewed compared to the two previous stories.
I think that really speaks to the stigma around substance use, and maybe even the lack of awareness about what it is. So I’m deeply appreciative of how willing Nolan, Jocel and Joe were to open up about some of the most trying times in their lives for this project. I’m hopeful that their stories will reach people who need to read them — whether it’s people who are directly or indirectly dealing with substance use, or people who will become equipped with a different understanding of those affected by it.
In addition to this story, my editor Ada graciously contributed a companion article to this project: a profile on Joel Relampagos, a TV executive producer who was inspired to create a free mental health platform called Change Your Algorithm after experiencing alcohol addiction. It’s a beautiful story, and you can check it out here.
As always, I want to thank everyone who contributed to this story and project: Ada Tseng and Matt Ballinger for editing my story and helping me tell it better by narrowing down the focus; Nicole Vas and Jim Cooke for providing art direction; Shane Tolentino for the captivating illustration that tapped into the presence of shame in substance use experiences; Ada for writing the profile on Joel and Luis Sinco for taking photos for it; and Ada, Matt, LA Times Utility reporter Karen Garcia and LA Times reporter Jonah Valdez cofacilitating the focus group I held for this story.
I’m currently working on the final piece for this project, and will be back with updates as they come.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear any thoughts or feedback you might have on the story and look forward to reading your messages.