Asian-Americans and the Mental Illness Stigma

With the recent media barrage of the Virginia Tech killer Seung Cho – with the images and video of the killer plastered on MSNBC and the slight fear and dread that this will all turn into an iconic image similar to a jet plane crashing over and over again into the World Trade Center – there’s also been increased coverage of his history with mental illness; a 2005 detention order stating that officials have “probable cause to believe … [that Cho] is mentally ill and in need of hospitalization, and presents an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness, or is seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for” himself.

To me, it just brings up the issue of Asian immigrants, Asian Americans and the stigma of mental illness. Of course, most people who are mentally ill do not commit violent acts, but it’s a subject that hits close to home because I have a sister that has been diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenia. While I’m not going to speak on behalf on all Asian-Americans (Christ, when have I ever?) I can tell you that the idea of mental illness is something difficult for my family to accept, even to this day; the “public face” is a big deal in Chinese culture, and the concept of psychologists and psychiatrists are relatively unfamiliar at best, and “weird” and “foreign” at worst. Only when the situation is dire (In my case, its when my sister ran away from home at 23 to meet someone she met in her mind) does the situation get the attention it deserves; by then, it might be too little, too late.

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About Ernie

I'm the creator of 8 Asians and one of the editors. While I'm a regular blogger to the site as well, think of my role as Barbara Walters on "The View," except without the weird white hair. During the day, I'm a Developer for a major Internet company and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've also been writing in my blog,, for seven years.
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