Natalie Leung

Staff Writer

Mental health is certainly a hot topic. The United States Center of Disease Control and Prevention reports that ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are some of the most commonly diagnosed mental conditions that affect children. These conditions often come in pairs: for children ages 3-17 with anxiety, 1 in 3 also have depression. New studies have highlighted the necessity for awareness in regards to taking care of mental health, especially for teenagers. Mental health has been a taboo subject in the past—often hidden, covered up, or simply dismissed. 

That being said, oftentimes in Asian culture, parents take great pride in their children’s accomplishments, valuing education over all else. Personally, I am lucky enough to have a family whose members are extremely open and accepting in regards to mental health. At times, however, I’ve encountered some within the Asian community who believe that mental health issues are, to some degree, made up as an excuse for what they deem to be poor behavior. This leads me to question: How has the conversation of mental health fared in the Asian community? Is it being made enough of a priority? Answering these questions are Asian-American sophomores at High School North.

Q: Have you felt uncomfortable talking about mental health within the Asian community before? Why is this?

A: “Yeah, because Asian parents are not really as familiar with the concept of mental health. It is tough to talk with them about it, when it’s tough for them to accept it or understand it, and conversations often end with no progress. 

– Surya Thurumella, Sophomore

A: “I have because there is a stigma [around] mental health and it’s not an issue that people can deal with. A lot of Asian parents have grown up without considering mental health to be something that actually must be taken care of.” 

– Parishi Narain, Sophomore

Q: Has there been a specific time where you have had an unpleasant response/experience when sharing about mental health?

A: “Many times over the years, I, as well as people I know, would have too much of a workload and explain it to our parents, family friends, etc, and they just said it’s normal and I have to deal with it…to them, this concept of over stressing is new(…)”

– Surya Thurumella, Sophomore

A: “…Just based on other people’s stories, history of the culture, and the news it makes me feel more hesitant to even discuss mental health.”

– Anusha Bapat, Sophomore

Q: Do you think there is a stigma surrounding mental health in the Asian community and why?

A: “I think there definitely is, but it’s an unspoken or silent stigma. Many Gen Z kids are surely aware that it is present but might be unsure how to voice their opinion about it with their parents or other people who are not on par with discussing mental health. This stigma probably exists because of the fixed mindset Asian-Americans hold on to, which believes that mental health is not as important compared to other aspects in life, such as education. Due to this mindset, the community as a whole ignores this topic as they don’t want to “promote” mental health issues when in reality, it’s suppressing teenagers who want to discuss this topic.”

– Anusha Bapat, Sophomore

A: “There definitely is[…]. Parents may consider that if their children seek help and mental health resources, they have failed as parents and this will bring shame to their family.”

– Parishi Narain, Sophomore

A: “I think there is a stigma surrounding mental health in the Asian community. People have a tendency to overlook the mental health of Asians because of how we properly present ourselves in public. Especially in regards to school, we typically do not let our mental health show through our grades and attitudes towards our peers and teachers. Therefore, it would not be easy to recognize someone struggling under the surface.”

– Elaeni Santiago, Sophomore

Q: How do you think the Asian-American Community can confront and change this stigma? What are your hopes for the future in terms of mental health becoming largely accepted?

A: “I’m hoping that parents can be more accepting of their kids’ mental issues. We all know that most Asian parents, especially in this district, have a very high expectation for their kids […] I think an open letter to the Asian parents would help, or give some real examples.  I think Asian parents are just more traditional, so I think it will take numerous instances to erase this stigma.”

– Cindy Wang, Sophomore

A: “I think [from] just being more open to discussing it, to attending webinars which are focused on discussing why it’s important to discuss mental health. I hope that having mental health struggles is a subject that will be normalized, even if it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily diagnosed with a disorder. I also hope that access to mental health resources such as hotlines, free therapy, counselling, or people to talk to increase over time”

– Anusha Bapat, Sophomore

A: “As difficult as it may be, I think that the Asian-American community can change this stigma by speaking up when they are in an uncomfortable situation that magnifies the misconceptions about them. I hope that in the near future, people outside of this community will not dismiss the importance of the mental health of Asian-Americans and will be able to easily push through the common stereotypes to help change the stigma.” 

– Elaeni Santiago, Sophomore

The thoughts and feelings our Asian-American sophomores are displaying are overwhelmingly similar. With all reporting some form of a stigma towards mental health in the Asian community, many North students indicate feeling as though their mental health is not prioritised enough. With this in mind, perhaps there is a larger issue at hand: cultural factors are influencing the way children view their mental health and its importance. 

So how do we bridge this gap? It seems as though teenage Asian-Americans already have several ideas, the kind that have the ability to spark a conversation of change. As a community, it’s important to listen to one another and take action against the isolating stereotypes that many children are victim to. In an environment as competitive as WW-P, students feel tremendous amounts of pressure from their families and peers to perform well; but to what extent is the sole focus on academics damaging their mental health? Finding a healthy balance between the two, and exposing students to coping mechanisms and mental health resources is pertinent to the success of students everywhere. The stigma towards mental health in Asian communities is clearly having a detrimental effect on students’ abilities to cope with their struggles and feel validated. And so, it is the responsibility of members in the Asian community, as well as those outside of it, to push for change by beginning the conversation around mental health with those around us. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help if you feel your mental health is suffering. Ask yourself: How can you promote mental health awareness in your community?

Picture Source: Franciscan’s Children

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