Asian Americans who live with depression and other mental illnesses may feel the need to diminish their own symptoms or feel in conflict about the validity of their mental illness when thinking about the struggle and hardship that their parents and elders went through. There are many different struggles and hardships that their parents and elders could have experienced, such as leaving their family and immigrating to the United States or working consistently to make ends meet for the family in the face of discrimination, to name a few.
Growing up, I was consistently exposed to my family’s experience in the Japanese American internment camps through stories, pictures, documentaries, and even listening in on interviews conducted at the house by local college students majoring in political science. When confronted with such compelling stories and experiences, it can feel like nothing is as hard as what they went through. It’s important to keep in mind that although your struggles are different than theirs, it doesn’t make yours any less valid.
There is a tendency for Asian Americans to keep pushing through life and not attend to their mental health or mental illness, because that is what’s taught in the home. There’s a lack of knowledge about mental health or mental illness, shame around the topic, and/or Asian American households are unsure about what to do or how to respond. For parents and elders, “pushing through” was also a way to survive during a time when mental health services were not as developed as they are now.
Things to Consider
- If you feel it, it matters. Any experience of distress, whether it’s emotional or physical, is a sign that you’re going through something that needs attention and now your body is literally sending you an alert.
- If what you’re going through is not attended to, it will continue to persist and can get more severe. We are fortunate in the United States, especially in Southern California where I work, that there is an abundance of therapists who can assist you, so that you don’t have to play a guessing game on how to manage what you’re experiencing.
- Think about the type of therapist that you would feel the most understood by or the most comfortable opening up to. Is it a person of color? A fellow Asian American? A therapist who is knowledgeable about Asian American struggles?
- Depending on your family history, it could be beneficial to have a therapist who is also trained in trauma. A trauma is ANY event or experience that an individual heard about, witnessed, or directly experienced that was distressing, disturbing, or where their life was in danger. This might be listed on the therapist’s website, or you could ask. On the “About Me” page of my website, it states that I’m trained in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
- Therapy can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but it may not stay that way for you. As a Japanese American, I do acknowledge that this can be uncomfortable because it is the opposite of the type of communication that goes on in the home: It’s not limited to talking about school and work and it involves feelings. As a therapist, I can tell you that therapy is a process and that it’s okay to slowly open up and get used to what it’s like to talk about these struggles. A good a therapist will understand and go at pace that works for you.
You don’t have to do this alone. Mental health professionals are trained to help individuals living with a mental illness. I specialize in treating depression and bipolar disorder. If you are interested in receiving therapy with me, you can call, email, or self-schedule a phone consult. My office is located in Orange County, CA. I provide in-person sessions out of my office and tele-therapy via video to individuals who live in California.
Click here to contact me: Let’s work together!
Interested in learning more? Click below to watch my videos:
Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. The topics being discussed are meant as a self-help tool for you own use. It is not psychotherapy or counseling. This information is to be used based on your own judgment. If you need to speak with a professional, you should find one local to you and contact them directly.
**IF THIS IS AN EMERGENCY, PLEASE CALL YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY NUMBER OR GO TO YOUR NEAREST EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT. **