A person I know, an Asian American, tried to commit suicide many years ago.
They called me up and we talked. They lived.
Now they are older and near dementia. But the memory of that critical moment when I kept them on the phone for hours is forgotten.
Even without their current circumstances, there’s no recollection of how our heartfelt conversation kept them alive.
But I remember the experience. My role. And I know that people in distress can get better. It’s not just the talk itself, but it can lead to regaining some sense of self so that real medical treatment is actually sought and their condition is not ignored.
That’s the thing about Asian Americans and mental health.
We don’t like to talk about it at all.
And that’s why after this grueling midterm election season, there’s talk not just about political empowerment, but mental health empowerment.
We know what drives the need for political empowerment. Lack of participation, representation. The end result, less democracy for us.
Asian Americans, despite our growing numbers, remain marginalized. That is, unless we seize the political moment, stand up, and speak out.
“Mental health empowerment” isn’t much different.
The movement is for real, and in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco, a real effort is being made in Alameda County to make sure Asian Americans aren’t left out. More than 400 people were expected to attend the second annual Asian Pacific Islander Mental Health Empowerment Conference this week in Oakland.
I talk to Dr. Helen Hsu, a professor and counselor at Stanford University, and the president of the Asian American Psychological Association about the move to get Asian Americans to speak up about their conditions in order to not just help themselves, but help the entire community understand that mental health is health care, and is serious business.
We talk about the stigma of seeking help; the other barriers of culture and language; how even well-to-do Asian Americans aren’t seeking help; and we talk about suicide.
Check out Emil Amok’s Takeout!