Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Let's talk about Mental Health

what is it? why is it important? what are mental health trends in the API community?

what is it?
real briefly. mental health practictioners have hardly agreed on a definition, but let's suffice to say that the Surgeon General says that mental health "refers to the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity."

and to understand mental function, we need to understand the mind.
Daniel Siegel, in his work with many health practictioners across disciplines says, "the mind can be described as patterns in the flow of energy and information. The great thing about this definition is that it allows for you to look at how the flow of energy and information happens within one brain, as well as how energy and information flow between brains or among many brains, as in a family. You can see how the mind actually emerges not just from within one's skull, but the human brain is actually an extremely social organ."

why is it important?
so in lay people's terms, our mind, as something that develops through our brain's interactions with other people's brains, is the avenue through which we experience the world. Our mind processes information about the world, and drives our behavior and relationships.

often, the focus on "health" excludes mental health, but mental health is essential to one's health. in fact, the connection between mind and body is ever documented via science. have you ever said to someone that your stress level or emotions caused you to get sick?

mental health is also very important because it involves the realm of emotions. emotions are what alert us to our needs, wants, desires, dislikes, and likes. emotions can also cause a lot of people distress and the inability to regulate emotions is what drives people toward mental illnesses. as many people know, depression has increased in young adults.

what are mental health trends in the API community?
I don't have any statistics on me right now, but as earlier posts have alluded to, API families are often not focused on close relationships or sharing of emotions. sometimes, there's the mantra of "don't talk about family issues to anyone outside of the family." Or there is virtue in not crying, not yelling, not having conflict, etc. Thus, there are many things that young adult API people deal with that get swept under the rug. The most serious of these is sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Sexual abuse within families sets people up to be vulnerable to people outside of the family. So while we look at non-API groups sexually objectifying API women, let's also look within our own community.

In addition, many people are dealing with adjusting to new cultures and worlds. Many of us have tried to have one fit in and one foot out. What has this down to our own sense of self and identity? Do many of us feel split?

Also, if the trend is to keep things quiet, how can people deal with and move on from trauma? Unaddressed trauma gets passed down from one generation to the next. So, what trauma have we carried from our past generations? How will we make sure not to pass it on?


  1. What's your personal experience with mental health?

  2. I think this is very true. In Asian cultures, I find that there's a lot of "implied communication." There's a prevalent idea that "if I hit them, then that means I love them," but seldom is love explained or expressed verbally. For me, I don't really remember hearing I love you when I was younger. I don't think it was until near college that my parents and I started saying it to each other, but I know for many of my friends, it is still not said. I think this is more so for men saying it to men. There's an image that men should be hard, shouldn't express their feelings, especially to other men.