Ok, now that I’m done with that insightful commentary, I just want to say that not getting straight A’s has never been so horrifying to me that I would want to commit suicide over my grades. (That doesn’t stop me from petitioning my school to reinstate my A from last term so my GPA doesn’t drop.)
In all seriousness, in 2005, the United States Department of Health and Human Services reported that Asian American females between the ages of 15 and 24 had the highest suicide rate among all women in that age range.
The push to achieve is also often cited as a factor in suicide for Asian-American men or Asians (see this article about suicide in Taiwanese youth from a few years back).
With the recent suicide of Jennifer Tse, a junior biochemistry and molecular biology major at UC Davis, the issue of stress among the Asian American female population has been brought to the forefront. [full story]
While I think this is a very likely reason that Asian-American women who commit suicide do so, I think it ignores potential mental health issues that may be related. Are these women clinically depressed? Have they received any treatment? Did they have social issues? Did they possibly use drugs? There are any number of other reasons that could have also pushed them to the point of suicide, but I think it’s easy to put it under the “push to achieve” umbrella and blame the Model Minority expections. I’m not saying culture and achievement don’t have a major part in this; they probably do.
However, I think it’s dangerous to ignore the other things that may or may not have been going on the victims lives and say “Oh man, she was under so much pressure to achieve and she couldn’t take it.” While a gal may not be able to change parents who are pushy, or a college admission system that is incredibly competitive, or even a society who looks at her and expects her to achieve, if someone is depressed because she lost a boyfriend and doesn’t feel good about her self-image (on top of having a lot of pressure to achieve), it’s possible for her to seek help about some of the other problems and possibly prevent a tragedy for a family and community.
Sometimes a great big problem is made up of a whole bunch of unrelated problems.
Oh yeah, here’s the story:
Push to achieve tied to suicide in Asian-American women
By Elizabeth Cohen, CNN. POSTED: 2:53 p.m. EDT, May 16, 2007
• Suicide second-leading cause of death for Asian-American women 15-24
• Highest suicide rate among women of any race, ethnicity for that age group
• Experts cite “model minority” expectations, family pressures as factors
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — One evening in 1990, Eliza Noh hung up the phone with her sister. Disturbed about the conversation, Noh immediately started writing a letter to her sister, a college student who was often depressed. “I told her I supported her, and I encouraged her,” Noh says.
But her sister never read the letter. By the time it arrived, she’d killed herself.
Moved by that tragedy, Noh has spent much of her professional life studying depression and suicide among Asian-American women. An assistant professor of Asian-American studies at California State University at Fullerton, Noh has read the sobering statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services: Asian-American women ages 15-24 have the highest suicide rate of women in any race or ethnic group in that age group. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Asian-American women in that age range.
Depression starts even younger than age 15. Noh says one study has shown that as young as the fifth grade, Asian-American girls have the highest rate of depression so severe they’ve contemplated suicide.[full story]
(If you have time to check it out on CNN tonight, Elizabeth Cohen examines depression in Asian-American women and the cultural stigma against getting help, on “Paula Zahn Now,” 8 p.m. ET)
h/t: OutOutBlogger, who sent me the link to this article, saying she thought of me when she read the article!