Category Archives: mental health

Sharline Chiang on Smiling Selfies and Other Lies

Photo courtesy of Sharline Chiang

At Hyphen, writer Sharline Chiang tackles the stigma of post-partum depression and how her race influenced her experience with the condition.

Four years ago I had three miscarriages. “You’re not careful enough,” my mother said. “You’re too active.” While I was pregnant with Anza, I learned I had balanced translocation, a genetic condition. We needed to get lucky. Even after explaining this to her, my mother would insist: “Go on bed rest so it doesn’t fall out.”

I couldn’t risk hearing words that sounded like blame. I already felt it was my fault: I was too soft.

My grandmothers combined had birthed and raised 15 children while fleeing the Japanese, the Communists, and poverty. What right did I have to fall apart?

So I took selfies of me and Anza smiling and sent them to my parents every day.

I lied because even though depression is so common in Asian American communities, we rarely talked about it. The message I grew up with: your mental struggles are our own; it’s up to you to find the inner strength to “ren,” to endure.

The character for “ren” 忍 is the character for “knife” over the “heart.” Endure even when there’s a knife in your heart.

In my thirties I discovered talk therapy, tried to get my parents to go. Their response was basically: “That’s for white people.” “They hook you in,” my mother said. “You can never be cured.”

I wish mental illness didn’t come with stigmas. I wish I could have told my parents that my mind had broken just as easily as if I had to tell them my arm had broken.

Whenever my husband would say, “You really should tell them,” I felt that chasm again (he’s white, son of hippies). To him it was unimaginable to suffer the darkest period of your life and not tell your parents. Meanwhile, everyone in his immediate family knew. His mother and brother moved down from Canada to help take care of me.

The fact that I could get PPD never crossed my mind. I had no history of depression.

Two years ago while pregnant with Anza, I had spent thousands of hours reading about pregnancy and birth and exactly five minutes reading about postpartum depression.

On the cover of the brochure was a white woman with long brown hair. She was staring into space under the words: “Feeling Blue?” I took one look and said to myself: white woman, sad woman, that’s not me and that’s not going to be me.

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David Phan’s Suicide Sparks Grief, Anger, And A Call For Justice

By Guest Contributor Terry K. Park, cross-posted from Hyphen Magazine

David Phan at age seven, at Arches National Park. Courtesy of the Phan family.

After their son took his own life on November 29th, David Phan’s family received two boxes. One box, sent by Bennion Junior High, was filled with generic pamphlets on how to deal with suicide-related grief. The other box, given by current and former classmates, contained over 600 letters expressing their support and sorrow for the loss of their child. These letters, according to family advocate Steven Ha, paint a portrait of a 14-year-old who, despite being a victim of bullying himself, protected other victims of bullying. At a December 20th briefing for local Asian American activists at the offices of the Refugee and Immigrant Center – Asian Association of Utah, Ha read out loud one such letter from a former classmate:

“Dear Phan family. Your son David is a life saver. I’m going to miss him…This kid is amazing, has a great personality…I’ve never met someone who could make me smile when I’m deeply sad. He saved my sister’s life. She was going to kill herself, but you [David] talked her out of it. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have a sister because of him, your son…I will not forget you [David]. I am letting balloons go in the air to honor you. I’m so lucky to have met him. He always made everyone smile…If someone was sad, he’d ask if they need a hug. He was the hero of the school. If only I was still there, I would’ve made sure this wouldn’t have happened.”

Tragically, it did. And now a Vietnamese American family grieves for the loss of their son and seeks answers. The answers given by Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsely in the immediate wake of David’s suicide were not only insufficient but struck the Phan family and supporters as defensive, insensitive, and even illegal. “David,” said Horsely, faced “significant personal challenges on multiple fronts” for which he supposedly received support for from a guidance counselor. And despite a report of bullying several years ago, “[David] never reported any further bullying concerns and, on the contrary, reported that things were going well.”

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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Tamura Lomax

By Andrea Plaid

Tamura Lomax. Photo: courtesy of the interviewee.

You may have seen the R’s cross-postings from The Feminist Wire (TFW), that brilliant collective of mostly writers of color doing their intersectional thang on topics like Black women’s self-care in academia, forums on World AIDS Day 2012 and voting, and–in full disclosure–an interview with one of the R’s staffers. (I’m telling you–it’s a treat of a lifetime to be interviewed by one of your heroes.)

So, mutual admiration is fair play.

I got to interview the great brain behind TFW, Tamura Lomax. Her bona fides: she’s the Assistant Chair and an assistant professor of African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has been featured at, among other spaces, Religion Dispatches. She’s working on a co-authored book about the Black feminist/womanist reponses to Tyler Perry’s work and a book on Black feminism and Black cultural production. And she’s just hella fun to clown around with online, which, of course, has led to some hush-hush plans for a future academic conference.

I’ve said too much already about the event. Here’s Tamura…

The Feminist Wire is a heck of a collective of some of the best minds thinking about the intersections of race, gender. sexuality, bodies, politics, etc. How did you gather such a great group of people and, more interestingly, why and how did you start the blog?  

The Feminist Wire began as a concept in 2010.  Hortense Spillers and I were working on my dissertation and we thought it would be neat to write something together—two black feminists working across generations.  At this time, she even referred to me as a younger version of herself.  We were definitely similar in terms complexion and hairstyles and–as we learned later–personalities.  Her work and writing style definitely informs my own.  Our initial idea was to write some sort of peer-review essay for academia.  However, when the Shirley Sherrod incident occurred, we knew it was our time to put pen to paper–or, in my case, fingers to keyboard.

We wrote the essay, “Shirley Sherrod: Open Letters Between Two Frustrated Feminists, Hortense Spillers and Tamura Lomax,” which was a critical call-and-response about Sherrod, of course, but also black women and media.  We shopped the essay, hoping to get it published at theroot.com.  However, no one responded.  Frustrated, we decided to “create our own damn site” so that we could publish what we wanted when we wanted.  Due to timing, we published the essay on my now defunct webpage, tamuralomax.com, and began charting our path toward The Feminist Wire.

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When A Loved One Commits Suicide [The Mental Health Files]

by Guest Contributor Renina, originally published at New Model Minority

“When Too Blue,” aroncb

It has taken me nearly a year to deal with the suicide of my play little brother Matteo.

I felt like shit when I first learned the news, nearly a year ago. In fact, I just laid on the floor and cried. When I saw that I had a phone call from a 510 number late on a Sunday night, I knew something was wrong; no one calls me from home that late unless something is wrong.

The day after I learned he passed, I still taught my class, but I mentioned to my students that someone close to me died, someone who was around their age.

After teaching, I went to Ben’s with Jerm the Perm to eat wings. #NOTtheAppropriateAayofDealingWithaDeath.

Teaching my students that day felt odd because I was able to be there for them, but I wasn’t able to be there for my play little brother. It made me question the meaning of what I was doing. If I can’t help people from my home, Oakland, then what am I doing? I’ve held on to this ambivalence until I went to Oakland three weeks ago and formally grieved his death. Continue reading

Listening To Kanye [The Mental Health Files]

808′s and Heartbreak Album Cover.

 

Went through, deep depression when my momma passed/
Suicide, what kinda talk is that?/
But I been talking to God for so long/
And if you look at my life I guess he’s talking back- Kanye West, “Clique,” Cruel Summer

As often as Kanye West talks about the state of his mental health, one would think that we’d be having a national conversation on mental health–kind of like the way we had a wave of conversations about domestic violence in the wake of the Chris Brown-Rihanna incident. Yet, in the four years since Kanye began talking openly about the depression related to the death of his mother and the dissolution of his romantic relationship with longtime paramour Alexis Phifer, the conversations have continued to be one-sided.

A search for “Kanye West and Depression” brings up surprisingly few articles and discussions. There’s a sterile AP article describing his initial comments, Cord Jefferson advising Kanye to go to a therapist on The Root, an MTV news article on his path to recovery, and Tom Breihan in the Village Voice distilling 808′s and Heartbreak down to “emo bellyaching” and a “album-length tantrum at his ex.” While Bassey Ikpi later argued to have some compassion for Kanye, it was one small plea in a sea of indifference and condemnation.

After four years of being open about pain and vulnerability, I’m starting to wonder if society will ever really hear him. Continue reading

Quoted: On Race, Political Activism, And Mental Health

[W]hile obvious bias can’t be easily discounted, sometimes misdiagnoses are the unintended side effects of persistent cultural misunderstandings. [Jonathan Metzl, a psychiatrist at Vanderbilt University and author of the book “The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease”] argues that racial tensions are structured into clinical interactions long before doctors and patients meet in the exam room.In the early 1970’s a series of influential studies established the fact that people of color were often over-diagnosed with much more severe mental illnesses than their white counterparts. When psychiatrist miss the mark so consistently, one obvious side effect is that persistent — though perhaps less severe — mental illnesses often go untreated.

Metzl notes that black men are historically underdiagnosed with illnesses like depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.

“There’s a mistrust of psychiatry that I think is very well-founded. In the 1960’s we see very clearly that psychiatric experts were pathologizing civil rights protests and particularly black power protests as being insane. And it’s very hard to turn around from that and say, ‘Oh no, we made a mistake, please trust us.’ If you have a history of pathologizing legitimate political protests as mental illness, you set conditions for mistrust on both sides.”

– From “Young, Depressed, and Of Color: Why Schools and Doctors Get It Wrong,” by Jamilah King, for Colorlines

Voices: Tragedy in Kansas City

Kasandra Perkins, 22, was killed by her boyfriend, football player Jovan Belcher, Saturday.

Of course Belcher is the headliner in this tragedy, because he apparently thanked the people trying to talk him out of killing himself for all they had done for him. Then he was gone, day before a game, outside Arrowhead Stadium, dead at 25.

But Jovan Belcher had a chance for it all to end differently, at least for him, no matter what brought him to this moment outside Arrowhead Stadium. That is why the real tragedy here — the real victim — is a young woman named Kasandra Michelle Perkins, whom Belcher shot and killed before he ever parked his car at the Chiefs’ practice facility and put that gun to his head.

She was 22 and the mother of Belcher’s child, a child who is 3 months old, a child who will grow up in a world without parents. At about 10 minutes to 8, according to Kansas City police, Jovan Belcher put a gun on the mother of his child in a house on the 5400 block of Chrysler Ave. in Kansas City and started shooting and kept shooting. You want to mourn somebody? Start with her.

“Welcome to our world,” a former New York City police detective I know said on Saturday about the shootings in Kansas City. “This time it just happened to be the National Football League.”
- Mike Lupica, New York Daily News

KCTV5

It should come as no surprise that Crennel, Chiefs players, Pioli, owner Clark Hunt and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell quickly agreed not to delay Sunday’s football congregation at Arrowhead Stadium.

Football is our God. Its exaggerated value in our society has never been more evident than Saturday morning in my adopted hometown. There’s just no way this game should be played.

Twenty-eight hours after witnessing one of his starting linebackers take his life, Crennel will stand on the sideline as young men play a violent game. Twenty-eight hours after one of their best friends killed the mother of his child and himself, Chiefs players will take the field and play a violent game.

Football is a game of emotion. Football is a game in which the coaches and players preach about treating each other as family.

How can they play Sunday? Why should they?
- Jason Whitlock, Fox News

“I definitely agree with the decision to play today,” wide receiver Dexter McCluster said. “This is the game we love. This is the game Jovan loved. This is the game fans love, so why not go out here and do something that we love to do?”

For others, the alternative was worse.

“The least-worst option was to play the game,” center Ryan Lilja said. “Suffering a tragedy like that, maybe the best thing was to be together and do what we do — and that’s what we do, we play football.”

In light of a 27-21 win and perhaps the Chiefs’ finest performance of the season, it’s hard to argue against going ahead with the game, which several players hoped might speed up the healing process.

- Tod Palmer, The Kansas City Star

According to medical studies, around 600 murder-suicide events take place each year in the United States, resulting in 1,000 to 1,500 deaths. Most of those don’t generate this much attention. As far as anyone can remember, this is the first such incident involving an athlete in America’s most popular sport.

Three months ago, a man shot a woman and then killed himself in the Kauffman Stadium parking lot a few hours before a Royals game. The victim in that shooting had two children, a school-aged son and a grown daughter. She spent weeks in a hospital; her spleen was removed, among other operations, but she has survived.

That story came and went faster than this one will, and if we’re smart we’ll gain some understanding about the problem. Maybe we’ll remember that domestic abuse is still a major problem in America.
- Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star

Meanwhile, On TumblR: Seriously Cute Kids, The Glamourbaby Diaries, And Taylor Townsend

By Andrea Plaid

I finally figured out that I change my hairstyle every decade or so. In my fourth decade, I decided to forego the bald and grow out my hair without going to locs, like I did in my 30s. This little child is my seriously cute inspiration:

 

Quite a few of you Tunblizens were feeling the little one’s cuteness, too.

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