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Hmong refugees suffering mental trauma

Several thousand Hmong refugees live in our area and bear the physical and mental scars as survivors of war and genocide.

Posted: Oct 22, 2019 7:29 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2019 11:14 PM

CHICO, Calif. - Some 300,000 Hmong refugees are living in the United States with several thousand of them in our area bearing the physical and mental scars as survivors of war and genocide.

At the East of Eaton Community Center in Chico, a festive get-together with seniors living new lives. The scene a far cry from the world they once lived.

Nghia Pao Vang fought in the Vietnam War. Fleeing communist forces, it was 2005 before he, his wife and eleven children found refuge in the United States.

"...Which caused a lot of trauma, leaving their home for a new place, trying to start a new life, losing family members in front of them, leaving a family member behind," explained Payong Xiong, who works at the Butte County Hmong Cultural Center.

Vang told Action News Now when he came to the United States, he felt Americans loved him as much as his parents would have and he remains thankful for that.

Chia Thao came to America in 1983, her father is also a veteran of the war.

Thao describes her depression blurring her eyes and stifling her breath. But she says this community lifts her spirits.

"The thing about mental health in our culture is it's not talked about. Especially with the older generation, due to stigma," said Xiong.

The Butte County Hmong Cultural Center estimates some 2,000 Hmong living in the area, many grappling with their mental health.

"With so much trauma in our history, we have resilience," said Xiong.

No longer suffering silently but with much work left to be done, this community forges on.

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