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doctor meeting with a patient
Jillian Freitas meets with a patient in her clinic.

Three in five college students nationwide reported being diagnosed with anxiety, depression or another mental health condition by a professional, according to a Harris Poll released this year.

To help meet the unique needs of Native Hawaiian students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Department of Native Hawaiian Health launched Ka Malu a Waʻahila. The program is free to students and was developed at the request of the UH Mānoa Kūaliʻi Native Hawaiian Advisory Council and funded by the UH Mānoa Office of the Provost.

“This is an important service being provided to our kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiian) students and I commend the Waʻahila program and JABSOM, our school of medicine, for stepping up and meeting this challenge. We need to support all of our student needs so they are able to focus on their studies and this program will provide an invaluable service,” said UH Mānoa Provost Michael Bruno.

Services available

Students have access to individual therapy services, monthly kūkākūkā (discussion) group support sessions, and additional tools for self-help and resiliency via the program’s website and social media platforms.

Students from across the UH system also have access to the MyHealthStory2 app, a video-based digital platform designed to capture student experiences relating to mental health. The interactive app was developed in partnership with HealthTechApps, a Native Hawaiian-owned and-operated tech startup founded through the UH Mānoa Innovation Center.

Ka Malu a Waʻahila’s mission is to foster a safe, therapeutic space for kānaka maoli students, faculty and staff born from the acknowledgment of historical and intergenerational trauma, to cultivate healing pathways that elevate the behavioral health of the lāhui (Hawaiian Nation).

“Our haumāna (students) deserve the highest quality support without having to explain the gravity of their collective historical traumas and histories,” said Jillian Freitas, program director of Ka Malu a Waʻahila.

Freitas said the mental health resources are provided by professionals who can connect with students on various levels.

“Our clinicians not only are licensed mental health professionals, but also have lived experiences as Pacific Islanders, and participate in ongoing training in providing culturally safe, responsive and reflexive behavioral health services for our kānaka maoli community. We believe in the power of recognizing historical and intergenerational trauma, but also celebrating our collective, Indigenous resiliency and joy,” she said.

Freitas said Ka Malu a Waʻahila extends gratitude to the champions and collaborators at Kūaliʻi Council, Native Hawaiian Student Services and the Counseling and Student Development Center for creating space for the program to flourish.

For more information, visit the Ka Malu a Waʻahila website, follow @kwaahila on Instagram, or download the MyHealthStory2 app via the Apple Store.

This program was made possible through CARES Act funding, UH Mānoa’s Division of Student Success and the UH Mānoa Office of the Provost.

Read more on the JABSOM website.

—By Matthew Campbell

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