In my culture, external family image takes precedence over everything, including freedom, happiness and mental health. We’re confined by the pressure to keep up appearances, and our mental illnesses are often swept under the rug.
I spent a significant part of my childhood unpacking my emotions alone. Nobody spoke to me about feelings — that I might experience negative ones or how to deal with them. I found a lot of comfort in an Asian American community at my school where students shared experiences similar to mine. This group taught me the importance of conversation.
However, a lack of conversation persists in the Asian American community. To open a dialogue around mental health, UT’s Center for Asian American Studies should make their collaborations with the Counseling and Mental Health Center more visible to students, especially the Asian community on campus.
Public health sophomore Hana Dole can speak to the stigmatization of mental illness in her family. Dole, who is of Vietnamese descent, said she spends a lot of time with her community but can’t remember a genuine discussion she’s had with them about mental illness.
“I think it’s an important issue that should be talked about more,” Dole said. “There’s not much dialogue about mental health in my community as far as where to get help or who to talk to.”
Dole’s experience is not uncommon. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “studies show that Asian Americans are three times less likely than their white counterparts to seek treatment for their mental health concerns.”
Tony Vo, the assistant director of the Center for Asian American studies, spoke to the center’s already existing mental health initiatives.
“(The center) has been a long standing partner with the CMHC,” Vo said. “This semester, we’ve also partnered with the CMHC, the Longhorn Wellness Center and community therapists for an ongoing workshop series titled, Cultivating an Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Mental Wellness Toolkit.”
Vo said the purpose of the series is to normalize and develop dialogue around mental health and to create spaces where these students can discuss their engagement with therapy and develop culturally relevant coping mechanisms.
When I asked Dole about her familiarity with these resources, she expressed surprise.
“I had no idea that the center even existed,” Dole said. “I can see these kinds of support systems benefitting a ton of students at UT.”
These are important resources. They are relevant to students’ well-being, and they would have a greater impact if more students knew about them.
While the Center of Asian American Studies is engaging in meaningful initiatives with the CMHC, they are not widely publicized to the Asian American Community. UT’s Asian student community must be informed of these resources.
The University and the center could address this issue by including information about these opportunities in weekly department and collegewide emails. This is a simple fix and one UT needs to prioritize because the Asian community on campus deserves to know about solutions to cope with deeply ingrained cultural stigmas.
Dronamraju is a public health sophomore from Dallas.