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The End of July Is Only The Beginning Of Mental Health Awareness

July 31st, 2012 | 8 comments | Posted by Jen

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Across the board among minority groups in the US, stigmas surrounding mental health and treatment are much greater than they are for whites. So while July is almost over, I hope this is only the beginning of the Asian American community and other minority communities championing a shame-free discussion about our mental health.

To kick off this month, my friend, Nigerian American poet and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi, who started The Siwe Project to raise awareness of mental health issues in the African diaspora, declared July 2 “No Shame Day.” No Shame Day was designed to encourage people to share their stories and struggles with mental illness openly via social media. I’ve talked about my depression in the past–though upon reflection, not nearly enough given how much I care about destigmatizing mental illness–so I of course had to participate. (Plus, I want to be more like Bassey when I grow up. You would too if you knew her.)

It occurred to me, though, as I was participating in No Shame Day, how much shame still colors my view and my experience of my own depression, much as I’ve tried to rid myself of it. Even after 15 years of treatment. Even after 15 years of being honest and open about it with my family, my friends, NPR listeners even, and, most importantly, myself. I’m a depressive? I live with depression? I suffer from depression? I struggle with depression? Sometimes the hardest part was simply finding the right shorthand with which to describe it when I brought it up, which was not infrequently.

And yet, for all the time I’ve spent trying to own it, I still catch myself trying to disown it, too. I only ever do this with one person–myself. But man, do I try. When I feel better, I like to pretend that depressed person never existed. Ding dong, the witch is dead. I think I’ve eulogized her at least a dozen times. When I start to feel worse, I immediately go for the quick fix. Do I need more sleep? Do I need more exercise? Should I drink less coffee? More coffee? Do I need to start yoga again? Should I eat more kale? Should I eat more cake? All perfectly valid questions, but a defensive smoke screen I put up nevertheless in order to not ask the question I really need to be asking myself: am I depressed (again)?

Continue reading The End of July Is Only The Beginning Of Mental Health Awareness

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DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! New Study Suggests Asian Americans Are In Emotional Limbo

May 6th, 2011 | 4 comments | Posted by Jen

A new psych study examining the role of happiness on the mental well-being of Asians, Asian Americans, and European Americans has been published in the aptly-named journal, Emotion. Led by University of Washington psychologist Janxin Leu and co-authored by UW grad students Jennifer Wang (my name doppelganger) and Kelly Koo, the study interviewed 633 college students–a mix of Asian immigrants, Asian Americans and European Americans–and asked them to rate how much stress and depression they felt as well as the intensity of their positive emotions, like serenity, joy, confidence and attentiveness.

Their research concluded that among European-American participants “there was a strong correlation showing that the more positive emotions they expressed, the less depression or stress they reported.”

For Asians born outside of the U.S. “there was no correlation between positive emotions and depression and stress” found, because Asians seemed to interpret and respond to positive emotions differently. Leu discovered that happiness led to a kind of paranoia among Asians. “Happiness signals that something bad will happen next; happiness is fleeting,” she said.

As for the third group, Asians born in the U.S., i.e. people like me–and many of you reading this–the study’s results weren’t so clear.

The University of Washington news release for the study states “the correlation [between positive emotions and depression and stress] was more subtle among Asian-Americans” than among European Americans. The TIME magazine report on the study says “results for U.S.-born Asian Americans were mixed.”

Happiness: Didn't we invent this shit?

Which sounds like a polite way of saying that Asian Americans are in emotional limbo, Continue reading DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! New Study Suggests Asian Americans Are In Emotional Limbo

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