After two murder-suicides this summer, Hmong leaders tackle mental health

There's no word or phrase for mental health in the Hmong language. It's remained a taboo topic for generations.

"Many of the Hmong family members...they don't know who is having problems in their family and who doesn't because it's a taboo...instead of offering practical values or steps or procedures or ways to step out of the problem, they tend to shun the person aside to say, 'You're not important. Your problem isn't important,'" said Cheng Va Vue of Hmong 18 Council.

But after two high-profile murder-suicides shook the community, the Hmong 18 Council knew they needed to address the crisis immediately.

"We need to do something about it. We cannot wait to do something about this," said Hmong 18 Council Program Director Brian Xiong.

After a Hmong mother killed her six children in St. Paul in 1998, the Council was formed with the goal of preserving culture, strengthening community, and fighting domestic violence. Recently though, they've seen history repeating itself.

In July, authorities say 23-year-old Molly Cheng drowned her three children in Vadnais Lake before taking her own life in the hours after her husband shot and killed himself.

A month later, St. Paul Police say Yia Xiong shot his wife before killing himself, leaving their five children without parents.

Now, the Council is tackling the topic head-on with an outreach event specifically addressing suicide and mental health in the Hmong community. A Hmong psychiatrist and psychologist will lead the discussion.

The Council acknowledges more work needs to be done in the future, but believes this is the first step in breaking taboos for future generations.

"These issues are real. They are out there. We need to pay better attention to these issues," said Vue.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, September 24th at 9 a.m. at Hmong College Prep Academy.