Asian American Family Sues Harvard, but not for what you might think

Lawsuits against Harvard and well-known selective universities contending discrimination against Asian Americans have happened over the years, with the lawsuit sponsored by Edward Blum still in play and actively opposed by Harvard.  In late 2018, another kind of lawsuit against Harvard was filed. The family of Luke Tang filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Harvard contending that the University was negligent in caring in for Luke, who committed suicide in 2015.

After a suicide attempt his freshman year, Luke Tang was hospitalized.  While he was there, he signed a contract with Harvard saying he could return if he received mental health counseling.  He was able to return for his sophomore year even though, the lawsuit alleges, Harvard personnel knew that he had not received the required mental health counseling.

Since his death, his parents have set up a foundation in his name to raise awareness of signs of depression and other mental health issues, especially as it affects Asian Americans.  In addition, a short documentary called Looking for Luke was produced by the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds to educate and to destigmatize seeking help for mental health problems.  In the trailer above, the fact that Luke committed suicide is hidden for a long time and only told to one of his friends six months after his death.   My personal experience with the issue of mental health in Asian American families is that any problems are hushed up, considered a shame on the family that is not to be discussed openly, and likely not to be dealt with directly.  In particular, this article on Filipino Americans and mental health really resonated with me and other family members.  Our family, like many others in Silicon Valley, have known Asian American students who have committed suicide.

Harvard was required to respond to the lawsuit by January 9.  I haven’t been able to find the actual lawsuit text or any response since then (if someone has link to any of those, please include it in the comments). At the same time, the Luke Tang foundation is granting scholarships to students who have overcome psychiatric problems and welcomes donations.

September is Suicide Prevention Month; “Together Not Alone” PSA #IFEELALIVE

#IFEELALIVE is a national awareness campaign launched on the Love and Discovery blog in support of Suicide Prevention Month in September.

Suicide was the 8th leading cause of death for Asian-Americans, whereas it was the 11th leading cause of death for all racial groups combined.

This video is aimed at educating and helping Asian American Pacific Islanders with mental health issues.

The following people contributed to this PSA:
Megan Lee, Jason Chu, Elizabeth Sung James Kyson, Sean Michael Afable, Raymond Ma, Grace Su, Only Won, Lina So, Larissa Lam, Emily Wu Truong, Kanika Lal.

Statistics cited in the video are derived from data from American Psychological Association and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


12 Year old New York Filipina Cites Cyberbulling in her Suicide Note

gabriellemolina12 Year old Filipina American Gabrielle Molina committed suicide last month,  citing cyberbullying in her suicide note.  She joins Audrie Potts and other teens and adolescents around the world for whom cyberbullying was a factor in their deaths.    One doesn’t hear about Filipino American suicides that often (one report claims that they have a lower suicide rate), but this one hit home because another young Filipino American, the brother of one of my sons’ classmates, also recently killed himself.  News of Gabrielle’s death made it across the Pacific with this report and video from the Philippine’s GMA News.  What can parents do to prevent these deaths?

Continue reading “12 Year old New York Filipina Cites Cyberbulling in her Suicide Note”

The “it’s ok” Campaign Counters Stigma of Mental Illness

itsoklogoThe it’s ok Campaign is an effort to battle the stigma of depression and mental illness in Asian American communities.  This project run by the Corporate Asian American Employee Network (CAAEN) will center its efforts around their Facebook page, where they will provide articles and statistics about mental health along with links to mental health providers and community groups.  The message of it’s ok is that is okay to ask for help with mental health issues.  it’s ok has also created an online forum where people can anonymously share their feelings or stories about mental health.

Asian American women 65 and older have the highest suicide rate of any American ethnic group of womenThis New America Media story about the campaign also cites statistics that say Chinese immigrants have a depression rate of 34% compared to 9% in the general population.  Despite these facts, many mental health services that target Asian Americans are underutilized.  “The stigma is so great,” says Sylvia X. Bhatia, one of the campaign’s seven founders.

It’s ok launched on May 10.  The campaign will focus first on the San Francisco Bay Area and then look to expand through the US.


Bullying and Teen Suicide in South Korea

8A-2013-03-21-Time-SouthKoreaRattledBySuicideFrom Time: “A 15-year-old high schooler, only identified by his surname Choi, jumped out of his apartment home in the southeastern city of Gyeongsan last Monday after being bullied for roughly two years. His death — the second youth suicide in South Korea this month — has shocked the nation and called into question the government’s efforts to stop school violence.” South Korea is known for its high suicide rates especially among young people. It is about time the government intentionally pursues obvious causes like bullying, and hopefully initiates some real change not only in the educational sphere but in wider society concerning family relationships and dealing with judgment and pressure.

Asian Americans Have the Highest Suicide Rate for American Women Over 65


Asian American women above the age of 65 have the highest suicide rate of any American ethnic group of women, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Their suicide rate of 6.5 per 100,000 was followed by white women at 4.3 per 100,000.  

Mental health experts say that even decades after arriving in the US, many Asian American immigrant women still feel isolatedA study from Loyola Marymount University published in 2007 says that only 9% of Asian Americans are likely to seek out mental health services compared to 18% of the general population and that US born Asian Americans were more likely than immigrant Asian Americans to seek help.

Suicide has been a recurring topic on 8Asians because it is an issues that frequently impacts Asian Americans.

(Image credit: CDC)

Third Soldier In Danny Chen Case Gets Three Months And Demotion

Staff Sargent Blaine G. Dugas Jr received three months and a demotion in the 3rd trial associated with Danny Chen’s Suicide. He was convicted of dereliction of duty, specifically that he failed to look after the well-being of his soldiers by monitoring corrective training. He was found not guilty of three other charges of making a false official statement and two other dereliction of duties counts. Dugas’s defense attorney said that racial slurs that fellow solider’s called Chen could be viewed as “terms of endearment.” Dugas was given credit for time already served, so he won’t have any more prison time to serve. Two other soldiers have been convicted in the case, while five other trials are pending.

Sergeant Adam Holcomb Sentenced To Month in Jail & Docked Pay In Danny Chen Case

The first trial of those court-martialed relating to the death of Private Danny Chen ended with Sergeant Adam Holcomb being sentenced to a month in prison and getting docked a month in pay.  Holcomb was found guilty of maltreatment of a subordinate and assault culminated in battery.  He was cleared of negligent homicide charges.  His attorney stated during closing arguments:  “He will always have the stigma of being convicted at a court-martial.  Suffice it to say, Sgt. Holcomb has been punished enough.”  The Chen family is said to be waiting for all of the trials to finish before making any statement.

Third Trial In Harry Lew Hazing/Suicide Case Finds Lance Corporal Carlos Orozco III Not Guilty

After the hazing and suicide of Harry Lew, three Marines were put on trial. The trial of the first Marine ended up in a demotion and 30 days in prison, and the trial of the second Marine ended in a not guilty verdict. The trial of the third Marine, Lance Corporal Carlos Orozco III, also ended in a not guilty verdict.  Says defense attorney Captain Aaron Meyer: “It’s true Orozco had Lew do push-ups and sit ups. But Orozco was authorized to have a Marine in the squad do physical training like push-ups if the purpose was to maintain good order and discipline, there was no malice involved, and the training didn’t physical exhaust the Marine.”

Not Guilty Verdict In Hazing Trial Stuns Harry Lew’s Family

Marine Lance Corporal Harry Lew committed suicide in Afghanistan after being hazed by fellow marines when he fell asleep on watch in a foxhole. Three Marines were charged, and in the trial of the second one, Sgt. Benjamin Johnson, the defendant was found not guilty. Lew’s family was stunned. Harry’s father Allen Lew on the verdict:

“I can’t believe it.  I just feel sad about the verdict. Now I believe there is no justice in the military. No justice. That’s what I feel.”

Continue reading “Not Guilty Verdict In Hazing Trial Stuns Harry Lew’s Family”

Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Depression & Suicide Among Asian American Women

By Kristina Wong

Kristina Wong delves deep into the sky high rates of depression and suicide among Asian American Women to make ‘Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’

“I’m Definitely Not Crazy. But I Probably am Lying.”

My earliest memories of even thinking I might be depressed were met with warnings by my mother that if I ever dare seek professional help for depression, even as a kid, my employers would one day find out and fire me. It did bother me that being depressed-but-employed versus happy-and-unemployed was the better of the two (and only two) options, but I heeded her advice and never sought professional help. God forbid anyone know I was once a crazy 12-year old kid.

So I hid it for years. And not very well. Even into my college years, I managed to turn club meetings, sleepovers, friendships and intimate relationships into my own impromptu therapy sessions. Anything to avoid the stigma of actually seeking professional help! When I introduced myself to a circle of new friends, somehow unsolicited emotional clutter would always spill out with it. Sometimes my friends were halfway decent at playing Freud, but very often, they were so mired in their own messy lives that my problems just exhausted them.
Continue reading “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Depression & Suicide Among Asian American Women”

Mirai Nagasu Joins the U.S. 2010 Olympic Women Figure Skating Team

Over the weekend, Arcadia, California native and sixteen year old Mirai Nagasu came in second place in the 2010 US Figure Skating Championship to secure a spot on the U.S. women’s figure skating team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Earlier in the week, Nagasu came in first during the short-program competition (see video). Ever since I was a kid and watched Dorothy Hamill skate, I’ve always enjoyed watching the sport. I’ll never forget when I got to see Michelle Kwan skate live in the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics short program. She came in first at this event, later capturing the bronze overall.

Also over the weekend, The New York Times did an interesting story on the propensity of Asian American and Asian women to dominate the sport of figure skating:

“Eight of the 23 women scheduled to compete Saturday in the long program at the United States championships were Asian-Americans, who also excelled here among younger skaters… Without compulsory figures, skating became more like gymnastics. Jumping assumed a new urgency. Younger skaters could excel. The key to jumping is to leap high and spin quickly and tightly through two, three or four revolutions before returning to the ice. Asian skaters are often small and willowy, which can be an asset when jumping… Other cultural factors are also at play, coaches said. Discipline at home often transfers to discipline at the rink, Carroll said. Audrey Weisiger, a prominent Chinese-American coach, said: “A lot of Asian families really drive their kids, and I don’t mean in the car. They’re not allowed to be marginal.””

The article also mentions that former Olympians such as Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan have a lot to do with inspiring, especially Asian American women, to take up the sport. I’m sure that is the case and why I believe that Asian American role models outside of traditionally accepted passions, careers and vocations are important. Of course, the drive and expectations can have a negative effect as well – where Asian Americans (especially women), might feel put an inordinate amount of pressure on themselves.