As an Asian American, mental health was rarely touched upon in my household. It seemed like a silly issue to stress over, considering my family’s near-death experiences as refugees. I was expected to accept and move on from mental obstacles with ease.
I remember how shocked I felt hearing about one of my relatives battling depression. Despite being a teenager, I wasn’t aware of how common mental disorders truly were. My parents-like all parents- had tried to shelter me from worldly imperfections, even if it meant avoiding difficult conversations.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, while Asian Americans are found to have less mental health conditions, they are more likely to commit suicide.
This pattern is seen in South Korea, where suicide has remained the number one cause of death among young individuals for over a decade, especially for students, who face daily academic pressures.
A 2010 study from the American Journal of Public Health found that Asian Americans were 3x less likely to seek professional help than white people due to negative stigmas around mental health, as well as a lack of resources available to them.
Through conversations with other Asian friends and family, I discovered the commonality of the negative stigma around professional mental help. Somehow, reaching out for help meant that there was something wrong with you.
I watched my Asian friends struggle with their inner demons, unable to receive the help they needed. It seemed that every Asian parent believed that professional help was out of the question. Not because they didn’t want their children to receive help- but because help meant that their child was ‘broken’, something they refused to accept.
Looking back, my lack of knowledge in mental health left me vulnerable to the mental challenges I would soon face.
It wasn’t until after conquering my own mental battles did my mother tell me about her long history of mental disorders. She was simply too ashamed to mention it.
Mental health shouldn’t be a shameful topic. There is no shame in wanting help. Everyone experiences mental obstacles at one point or another. It needs to be discussed so that struggling individuals get the help they deserve.
Let’s normalize those difficult conversations.
National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255