Celebrating APAH & Mental Health Awareness

“Draw Yourself” by @janicesung

“Draw Yourself” by @janicesung

First of all, I recently discovered @janicesung’s artwork and I’m obsessed. Checkout her IG for more dope pieces!

But moving along!

May is such an empowering month because it highlights a couple of important topics to me - Asian Pacific American Heritage and Mental Health Awareness! In this blog post, I’ll be sharing a couple of FAQ’s providing my thoughts on unique mental health challenges within the Asian American community.

What are some barriers commonly faced by AAPI’s or First Gens?

Academically speaking, guidance and mentorship begins as a limitation within our very homes. It’s due to the mere reason that our parents didn’t go to college to begin with. Therefore they naturally lack the proper resources that their children need in their academic journey’s.

It’s a different type of pressure many people are unaware of. As a daughter, I felt the need to carry on the future of my parents. As an oldest child, I felt compelled (and was taught) to lead my siblings. As a woman, I was determined to pave the way and share my voice for the next generation.

It was clear that being able to provide was a priority to my parents, and their parents, and so forth. Producing income and maintaining stability wasn’t necessarily just about title or status. With my parents Vietnamese background, hard work was a mean of survival. And it’s inevitable that some of that mentality will get passed onto you.

Unfortunately this isn’t always beneficial for young Asian-Americans. I’ve witnessed students struggle through (and nearly dropped out of) college from juggling school, work to help their parents provide, and taking care of their siblings. And when your parents constantly shared with you their personal hardships as a reminder of how lucky you are, the moral of their story was that you have zero excuses to not be able to do it all, either.

The expectations and responsibilities are immense. And it’s even tougher when you can’t confide in your parents without feeling irrational. My dad worked as a fisherman by the age of 13 y’all, how can I even whine? If I had a penny for every time I broke down to my parents only to be yelled at, told that I’m ungrateful, or it’s somehow my fault, I wouldn’t need an education. I’d already be rich.

You’re constantly battling between two completely different standards: societal norms from your ethnic/parents background and the one you’re actually raised into. It’s an internal war when you feel like you’ll be out of place with one if you embrace the other. But that’s rookie thinking, honestly. Being able to embrace both is literally so powerful and liberating,

You know, I think we’ve all dealt with things like being bullied, ignorant assumptions, stereotypes, etc. So it’s unfortunate that mental health awareness/support was almost unheard of within our homes and communities. I talked about this to my sister (@amyquyen) a while back and it was evident how often we ignored these issues and suffered in silence. We were literally taught to suppress our emotions and just keep chuggin’ along.

Our challenges are therefore, unique in western culture. And regretfully, the system — whether educational, entertainment, or whatever — isn’t often designed with us in mind. This is what leads to a lot of young Asian-Americans feeling lost, isolated, and hopeless.

What advice do you have for those sharing similar journey’s?

Consider this — many of your parents faced a language barrier, English may have been your second language, you’ve broken generational curses, battled childhood trauma, and took the necessary steps in making your mark in today’s world. Regardless of what society says, the adversity you have overcame and continually overcome makes you a true trailblazer.

Recognize that seeking help doesn’t make you weak, incompetent, or incapable. There are a lot of available resources and aid out there, you just have to remain fearless in the pursuit of obtaining them.

You are enough and you will evolve with time. Don’t let any societal standards or social norms make you feel behind, insignificant, or unworthy. You are loved, wanted, and needed here.

You are not alone. Yes, you’ll be surrounded by many peers who won’t have a clue over what you are facing or battling against. But don’t be afraid to speak your truth, own your journey, and be proud of your uniqueness. Everything that you’re made of — your background, experiences, and story — positively impacts the universe in some way. Build a supportive tribe so that you may continually thrive! We’re all in this together.

I hate to say it, but mom and dad don’t always know best. If I listened to everything my parents thought was “best” for me, I actually wouldn’t be where I am right now. Believe in your dreams, make smart decisions, and don’t be afraid to say “that is not for me!

Lastly, prioritize and take time for yourself. You’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders already. Always make sure that you are whole and happy first. Because regardless of what is expected from you, you simply can not pour from an empty cup.

Mary Nguyen4 Comments