Free Mental Health Program for Native Hawaiian Students

Jillian Freitas meets a patient in her clinic.

According to a Harris poll released this year, three in five college students nationally said they had been diagnosed with anxiety, depression or another mental health condition by a professional.

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

“This is an important service provided to our Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) students and I commend the Waʻahila program and JABOM, our medical school, for taking on and rising to this challenge. We must meet all the needs of our students so that they can focus on their studies and this program will provide an invaluable service,” said uh Manoa Provost Michael Bruno.

Services available

Students have access to individual therapy services, monthly group kūkākūkā (talk) support sessions, and additional self-help and resilience tools through the program website and social media platforms.

Students from all over the uh also have access to the MyHealthStory2 app, a video-based digital platform designed to capture student experiences of mental health. The interactive app was developed in partnership with HealthTechApps, a Native Hawaiian-owned and operated tech startup founded by the uh Manoa Innovation Center.

Ka Malu has WaʻahilaThe mission of is to foster a safe therapeutic space for kānaka Maoli students, faculty and staff born out of the recognition of historical and intergenerational trauma, to cultivate pathways of healing that improve the behavioral health of the lāhui (Hawaiian nation ).

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

Freitas said mental health resources are provided by professionals who can connect with students at different levels.

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

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

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 thanks to CARE Financing of the law, uh Mānoa Student Success Division and the uh Mānoa Provost’s Office.

Learn more about the JABOM website.

—By Matthew Campbell

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