Among Asian Americans of college age, suicide is the number two cause of death, according to the American Psychological Association.
As Mental Wellness Week comes to an end Friday, the Asian Pacific Student Coalition will collaborate with Counseling and Psychological Services to promote mental health awareness in the Asian community. The coalition recently released its Action Plan for 2013 emphasizing a collaboration with CAPS.
This Monday, APSC, along with other student organizations, helped to host the event “Unpack Your Identity” as a part of Mental Wellness week.
College sophomore Curtis Lee, chair of APSC, said the reasons mental health is a problem for Asian Americans stem from social and academic pressures. Many of these pressures “constrain Asians to the stereotype of successful and hardworking” and have a large impact on their mental well-being.
Additionally, Lee said they’ll hold another discussion event to “bounce off the ideas” learned in Mental Wellness Week to apply what they have learned.
As a part of their Action Plan, APSC plans to have more events in the fall around the time of On-Campus Recruiting in order to address the pressures of the job hunt.
Michelle Leong, Engineering senior and former APSC chair, said, “There is a stigma about talking about mental health issues in the community and also about asking for help.”
Many Asian Americans face stereotypes and expectations that may prove hard to live up to, and constantly struggle with varying degrees of discrimination, such as microaggression — which has recently garnered media attention because of an incident at Oberlin College.
“I think the issue of microaggression is a big issue in minority communities. Part of it is the changing face of racism and the complexities it creates in terms of how we talk about, joke about things and the impact that it has on students,” said Meeta Kumar, director of outreach and prevention at CAPS.
Additionally, Asian American students may face high expectations from their families.
“A lot of Asian students are second-generation so there is that increased pressure to make sure that the sacrifices your parents made to come here were worth it, so you want to make them proud,” Leong said.
The collaboration between APSC and CAPS started a few years ago after a former chair of APSC came out with a personal article in The Daily Pennsylvanian about her own mental health struggles.
“Here was someone who was clearly a student leader, a great student and then she talked about her own history dealing with her struggles over the years,” Kumar said. “I think it really emphasized the dichotomy that you can be really academically successful and a student leader, but can really have this hidden experience of dealing with a lot of struggles.”
This instance led to discussions about collaboration between CAPS and APSC on how to engage the students in conversations around the mental health issues that surround minorities.
Initially, the two organizations started a Mental Health Camp that focused on addressing these issues. APSC also created a “mental health toolkit” that was passed on to subsequent chairs.
This was expanded into a Mental Wellness Week that not only addressed minorities, but the entire Penn community as well.
“Especially at Penn there is a ‘Penn face’ or mask that students have to put on to show that they are the typical and perfect Penn student. There are a lot of aspects at Penn where people don’t necessarily feel that they fit in well with,” Leong said.
They plan to continue their collaboration with CAPS to show the resources on campus that are available to students who feel that they are struggling academically or socially.
“You can be academically successful and be a great student leader and have personal issues, which are normal,” Kumar said. “It’s okay to talk about those and it’s not a sign of weakness.”Comments powered by Disqus
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