Type of Work
Co creation workshop/Service
The nature of immigration is a vulnerable experience that can result in identity crisis, social isolation, discripmination, and other problems that can affect their mental health. However, there are many barriers to mental health care such as fear of interacting with the government and health care facilities, the stigma around mental health and lack of cultural competency in care.
Dinner therapy is a service that helps immigrants meet mentors or therapists who identify with their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. As the current climate around immigration has deeply created tension, immigrants need to know who their advocates are and fostering community to cope with their migration experience.
There are about 270 million people who are living in a country that is not their place of origin. Defined as anyone who changes their “country of usual residence.” As travel essayist and author Pico Iyer says, we are living in this new social reality, where home is constantly updating and evolving.
as an experience
From deciding to migrate from the homeland to, moving, and living in the foreign land, migration is a complex experience that involves a lot of legal, social, and cultural factors. And the motivations behind migration varies, which make this experience different for different types of migrants.
But the common threads of experience are being uprooted from their home and co-existing in both places. My thesis started with exploring this multilocal nature of migration, that echoes the reality of many migrants, and how it's manifested in their identities and belonging and coping with the challenges that can lead to mental health issues.
User & Stakeholder Interviews
Through interviews with many immigrants in different background and those who work with immigrant communities, and conducting a literature review and research on immigration/travel sensory studies cultural identity and identity politics, I wanted to understand how one would navigate a new space and living as an in-beween.
Being multilocal can mean ‘being impossible to be normal’ where all your social cues are stripped away and have to relearn to live all over again. Or not having a clear identity of who you are.
Considering that in many communities, mental health concerns are actively ignored and people are discouraged from seeking help due to fear.
"The geography of displacement concerns how people cope sensorially with being uprooted and relocated." This led me to look more into the role of senses as a point of interrogation in orienting their identities and mental health during migration.
How might we ritualize sensory experience as a way to cope with displacement?
Dinner Therapy helps immigrants reflect on the idea of home and their identity through informal journaling and conversations. with prompts such as "I feel at home when…"
Dinner Therapy addresses the mental health issue through multi sensory experience. It provides a space for them to reflect on their migration journey and how their identities and sense of belonging evolved through sensory mapping exercises.
This service serves as a gateway to formal mental health care. The immigrants who might be afraid to interact with health care institutions or do not understand the need of care would benefit by vocabularizing their feelings and reflections through daily rituals as easy as just getting a meal with someone.
I tested this concept through a co-creation workshop that gathered people with varying types of migration experience, where they translated their identities through senses.
Mapping how they or their parents got to where they are and where in these moments they felt like their identities were changing or challenged. And where in the city they felt at home by placing the five sense stickers on the card with the location and sharing why it reminds you of home.
Sensory mapping seemed to work well in order to get people to think about where they live and where they are from and how they can be connected to reflect on movement of places.
Facilitating conversations is difficult as it really requires people to be vulnerable. Providing a self reflection tool may not help coping clinically but it can begin the conversation without accessing the formal care just yet.
These workshops could benefit from partnerships with immigrant community organizations and mental health therapists who could help facilitate the conversations amongst people who have similar cultures or experiences.