Mental illness is a serious discussion that is often brushed aside by our very own Asian American and Pacific Islander community. The different conditions associated with one’s mental health range from anxiety to depression to eating disorders and bipolar disorder. These conditions can sometimes result in suicidal thoughts.
Plenty of young teens are considered to have a mental illness condition, especially if they come from an ethnic background. According to Adolescent Mental Health, half of mental health conditions begin at the age of 14, and suicide is the leading cause of death for 15 to19-year olds. Because of this, I wanted to mainly focus on racial/ethnic teens because I believe that mental illness is a topic that desperately needs to be discussed among diverse communities for the safety of our children.
Racial/ethnic minorities are thought to be more likely to suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to a myriad of factors. In addition, the consequences and after effect that minorities experience regarding their mental health problems are considered more long-lasting and more severe. It has been proven that white teens are more likely to suffer from mental health problems in comparison to other diverse teens.
However, coming from an ethnic background, I can confidently say that racial/ethnic minorities suffer the most. I am in no means disregarding the pain and suffering that Caucasion teens experience daily. I am only merely focusing on my personal experience as a Pacific Islander who has lived in a diverse community her whole life.
I have heard of people I once knew taking their own lives due to the hardships they faced everyday. I have heard of kids opening up to their parents about their personal problems and then being told to “pray about it” or “sleep it off” as a form of response. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety a few weeks ago and was also told to “pray about it” as a form of response. I was also told that mental health problems do not run in the family, as if depression was hereditary.
Being told that you’re only going through these problems because you’re fading away from The Lord is the worst response someone could ever give a person with mental health problems. Not only are you belittling their mental health problems, but you’re also showing them that you’re not listening or hearing them out. It is things like this that made me want to speak out and hopefully change the way we see things as an ethnic community, for the sole purpose of saving our children.
Growing up on a tiny religious island, we were almost always forced into religion by our elders. We were always told to pray whenever we were going through tough times. For example, if we were feeling sad then we should pray about it. If we wanted the government to change then we should pray about it. If we wanted to end racism then we should pray about it. It was as if our elders forced religion onto things that needed real solutions instead. Don’t get me wrong, I know my God can move mountains. However, I also know that certain things can only be solved by actually doing something instead of sitting around.
These past few months, there have been about six deaths caused by suicide in American Samoa. I believe there’s more but I am only aware of six. The amount of suicides on a tiny island with not that many people is really difficult to process. Our children are suffering in front of our eyes and the only solution they’re being given is to pray.
We need real help and the system needs to change.