College, Stress and Asian American Wellness

As high school students make their final decisions about where they’ll spend the next (usually) four years of their lives, the Daily Beast has decided which of these colleges are the most stressful. Basing their rankings off of a mixture of factors including cost, competitiveness, and acceptance rate, the top 5 (out of 50) are Columbia, Stanford, Harvard, Penn, and Washington University in St. Louis.

Now, the first thing that popped out to me is that the schools considered “most stressful” are also those that have a relatively high proportion of Asian American students: Columbia had 25% in one class, Stanford had 19.8%, Harvard 17.8%, Penn 24.5 %, and Washington University in St. Louis 12%. Compare this one of the least expensive colleges, Florida State University, with only a 4% Asian American population. What worries me most isn’t whether these numbers support a model minority myth (correlation does not equal causation). What worries me is that Asian Pacific American students are more likely to commit suicide, and are less likely to seek help.

So, what are schools doing about this? Last week, Penn’s Asian Pacific Student Coalition hosted a mental wellness week with many other organizations on campus. Stanford University has also made efforts. While there aren’t measures of effectiveness for these events, the fact that they exist is a huge step toward tackling the topic of Asian American mental health.

Is it enough? Time will tell—maybe in the next 5 years, the American Psychological Association will publish findings that Asian American suicide rates have decreased. Until then, though, awareness is still key: many of the stress factors for students come from parental pressures. While full attitude changes are sometimes difficult to achieve, it is entirely possible to help provide resources for students so that they can learn to cope.

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