When Jennifer Kim ’16 was growing up, no one in her Korean-American community talked about mental health. But Kim had questions about conditions that affected people she knew.
“Young, curious troublemaker that I was, I went digging for information online, and I read many books about depression and anxiety,” she says.
Now a social worker, Kim has teamed with a friend and colleague, Vicky Lin, in a quest to educate young people from underserved communities about mental health and point them toward services they might need. Under the banner “Real Therapists of LA,” Kim and Lin serve up straight talk —“no fluff”— on mental health topics through a blog, Instagram and Tik Tok.
“Tik Tok has been a really effective way to reach many people, especially because all of our content there is under 30 seconds,” says Kim. “It’s nice and simple for people who are on the go or don’t care to read an entire blog post.”
Kim’s formal education in social work started at the Mount, where, she says, she found chances to build a network and develop her expertise. “I had the fantastic opportunity to participate as a research assistant to professor Julia Tang and Dr. Pamela Gist,” she says.
She later earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California, where she met Lin. The two then became co-workers at an outpatient mental health center in Los Angeles. Kim recently moved to a job at a local kidney care facility, counseling patients with acute kidney disease or end stage renal failure.
In her job and as a “Real Therapist,” Kim especially enjoys helping people take control of their own care. For instance, a teenage girl reached out through social media to ask where to find counseling or therapy. “I directed her to the resource guide on our blog, and I also provided some information about how to contact her insurance, if she has it, to see what services are covered,” Kim says.
Kim and Lin have been brainstorming ideas for expanding the blog and one day starting a private therapy practice, Kim says. They might also start selling stickers on Etsy, with messages about mental health for followers to display. “We hope the stickers will help to start conversations and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the community.”