(FOX 44) – We are celebrating both Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month throughout the month May, and FOX 44 News is taking a look at the pressures plaguing Asian-American youth.
We speak with two professors who explain how the model minority myth comes into play, the pressures facing the community is facing and what the stakes are.
You have often heard of students who lie about exam grades or forge report cards to avoid getting scolded by their parents – but for two Asian teens, they took extreme measures instead.
Azia Kim posed as a college student at Stanford university for eight months — studying for classes, living in the dorm and fooling classmates. Another college imposter, Jennifer Pan, was convicted in 2010 of a murder-for-hire attack targeting her overly-strict parents – killing her mother and injuring her father.
“I often find it hard to explain college impostors to potentially non-Asian audiences,” says Dr. erin Khuê Ninh, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. “It feels like selling tickets to a circus act – ‘Step right up and see these strange and desperate creatures!’”
Dr. Ninh is also the author of the book Passing for Perfect: College Imposters and Other Model Minorities. She explains what the motivation behind the behavior might be.
“God, whatever what a shameful failure you’d be. That maybe your parents worked so hard…sacrificed so much to raise you here,” says Ninh.
The decisions Kim and Pan made seem puzzling, but “success frame” – or “tiger parenting” – can play a huge factor.
“We create competition, and precarity…just winners, and failures,” she says.
This leaves the child, often times, with no other options.
Arnold Jin is the Assistant Professor of Instruction at the Center for Asian American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. He says there are everyday examples of this.
“It’s just difficult to to have a conversation with your parents, knowing that you’re going to disappoint them in what you’re going to say,” says Jin.
For example, “Students who are not willing to tell their parents what their grades were…or what was their SATs score,” he says.
And even, “I’m not actually a student, because I got kicked out for bad grades first semester, but I’m still going to campus with a backpack and let people think I am a student,” says Jin. “There’s an implicit understanding that whatever you do, is it, it has to do something that does bring like success and glory to the family name.”
Being the model minority also comes with a chokehold of societal expectations.
“They are so consumed with passing as the model minority that it’s at the detriment of their mental health. And ultimately, it results in some very undesirable outcomes,” says Jin.
Dr. Ninh adds, “Asian-Americans 15 to 24 years of age are the only racial group where the leading cause of death is suicide. What does that say about the lives of their living and how they felt about those lives?”
Jin believes we need to find ways to better support the mental health of our youth.
“We need to be having more conversations,” he says. “There is not as much acknowledgement on this issue that…the kids are putting enough pressure on themselves.”
For more information, you can click on any of the links below.
Mental Health Resources For Asian American And Pacific Islander Communities:
· Asian American Mental Health Collective directory – https://www.asianmhc.org/
· Yellow Chair Collective – https://yellowchaircollective.com/ (based in LA but they provide support groups throughout the US and an new non-profit that is their sister organization that is seeking to providing accessible and affordable Asian American & multicultural mental health services called Entwine Community)
· Entwine Community – https://entwinecommunity.org/
o Community Care Package: COVID focused weekly digital “community care package” includes inspirational stories, resources in a variety of languages, tools for adjusting and managing mental health, and platform to share your story/connect with others
· Asian Mental Health Collective: raises awareness about the importance of mental health care, promotes emotional well-being, and challenges the stigma concerning mental illness amongst
Asian communities globally.