Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recent Increase of Suicides Inspires Suicide Prevention Program For Asian-Americans

A recent University of Washington study shows almost 16 percent of all U.S.-born Asian-American women have considered suicide, compared to 13 percent of all Americans. Additionally, the 2009 study found that U.S.-born Asian-American women are more likely to attempt suicide.

In light of this, and 2010 suicides at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and other college campuses, the Asian Cultural House hosted a suicide prevention program on Jan. 25. Coordinator Sean Cheng said the program's purpose was to let the public know that suicide nationally is the second-leading cause of death among college-age students, and at the university a large number of suicides are Asian students.

''I would say it’s not something that is news to us here at the Counseling Center. We’ve been aware that this is an issue,” he said. “And it’s more that the national spotlight has been on recent suicides. Might as well use that as a time to get the message across.”

Additionally, the program was designed to reach out to Asian-Americans – and emphasize the importance of using campus resources such as the university's counseling center, mental health facilities, resident advisers, or mentors to name a few. Cheng said that Asian-Americans do not seek help when in distress.

One reason might be living up to the model minority stereotype, which according to scholars is defined as those who are more likely to set a high standard for achievement in comparison to other minorities, and in turn are more likely to be over-achievers. The New York Times defines it as an ''...image of Asian-Americans as a homogeneous group of high achievers taking over the campuses of the nation’s most selective colleges..''

In an October PBS interview, practitioner Dr. Shinhee Han said, ''Often times I have clients whose parents were absent growing up, working nonstop, and telling their kids to study no matter what their family was going through. Many children grew up in a house filled with sadness and too little laughter.”

Despite this, the suicide prevention program said that it is okay to seek help because the University of Illinois is a community.

The nonprofit, To Write Love On Her Arms was also present at the program.  One of its main goals as an organization is to decrease the stigma behind openly discussing mental health topics such as depression and suicide. It also has an outreach program for those struggling with such issues.

 There needs to be more programs like this for not just the Asian-American student population, but for all students in college, given the recent increase in suicides on campuses nationwide. Furthermore, university funding should be set aside to provide a resource center, a safe haven for Asian American students to healthily de-stress and bond with other Asian-American students.

- Theresa Campagna

More information on To Write Love On Her Arms can be found here.

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