I met Melanie Ukosakul, a mental health therapist with extensive experience working with trauma, about two years ago. It felt like a gift to meet someone else who also understood what it is like navigating multiple countries of origin and cultural identities.Thank you, Melanie, for taking the time to share some of your wisdom with us in this interview!
Neshia Alaovae (NA): How do you like to introduce yourself to new friends?
Melanie Ukosakul (MU): Hello there! My name is Melanie. I'm a therapist, artist, creative, wife, daughter, sister, friend, TCK (third culture kid), traveler, and global soul. I hail from Thailand and for now have made home in the PNW.
NA: What does your work involve?
MU: My therapeutic work is really centered around home/nest-building, meaning helping clients build 'home' within themselves, their bodies, in family, and in their communities. I work with clients to help them tune into the different aspects of their identity and the loyalties that beckon them and help them stay fiercely kind to themselves.
NA: What is something that you want people to know about mental health? About AAPI mental health?
MU: I come from a culture that values appearing okay, though it may not mean you are okay. I want you to know that your mental health makes you beautifully human. Honour that. You honouring you, honours your family.
As AAPIs, we often carry grief silently. I want you to know that you are not alone. There are others who rage and grieve and wage war against the culture of stigmatized mental health with you. And if all this feels counter-cultural, it is. So stay fiercely kind to yourself.
NA: What are your go-to's for taking care of your own mental health?
MU: My self-care go-tos are snacks! :) As well as long hugs, snuggles, feet rubs with essential oils, anything involving food, climbing, traveling, and journaling/ morning pages.
NA: What about your cultural or ethnic identity do you appreciate the most?
MU: I love this question and it’s a hard one. I love that my Thai-Singaporean-Chinese multicultural identity invites no-nonsense warm hospitality and an invitation to the table. I love that the 'how are you?' equivalent is 'have you eaten?'. Its so symbolic of attending to the others' nourishment and needs.
You can find out more about Melanie and her work as a therapist by clicking here. Thanks for reading along - don’t forget to check out the other AAPIs features from this month!