According to research by the department of Family Medicine at Hallym University, some 60 percent of people who attempt suicide are suffering from depression. Yet too many people in South Korea have outdated views of psychological illness. Many think that when someone is suicidal he simply lacks a strong will to live; he’s weak. There’s little sympathy or interest in probing below the surface.
And it’s not easy to get therapy for depression in South Korea, where there is still strong societal resistance to psychological treatment. Kim Eo-su, a professor of psychiatry at Yonsei Severance Hospital, told me: “One out of three depression patients stops mid-treatment. One of the biggest issues is that many patients think they can overcome depression on their own through a religious life or through exercise.”
Many people who seek psychiatric treatment are afraid of doctors keeping records. There was a rumor going around recently among married women that having a record of treatment or medication for depression could mean losing custody of your children if your husband were ever to sue for divorce.
Satisfactory explanations for the root causes of the epidemic are hard to come by. For the elderly, many analysts cite the breakdown of the traditional family unit, and the poor economy. Among the youth, the pressure over college entrance examinations is often blamed. And for the middle-aged, it’s uncertainty about the economy. But no matter what the age, too many South Koreans see suicide as a viable escape from the stresses of modern life. That attitude has to change.
— South Korea’s Struggle With Suicide, by Young-Ha Kim; April 2, 2014
by Guest Contributor Renina, originally published at New Model Minority
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
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
[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
Why is it so difficult to find good conversations about mental health? Especially when so many of us brush up against difficult situations that could define us or destroy us over the course of our lives?
I started thinking about this series last year when I watched a very good friend of mine go through a deep struggle with depression. She wasn’t the first person I knew going through that particular process, but she was the first person I was ever afraid for. Her mind was going to a dark place, and I was worried that she wouldn’t want to stay in this world for much longer. She’s still here, but it has been a long, rough process. I read and re-read the Ask a Model Minority Suicide archives, trying to find something that would help her. She already knew about the resources available–in fact, she knew much better than I did: the numbers to the suicide hotlines, the online support groups, the ways to keep on medication without health insurance. She knew how to navigate the system.
But it still wasn’t helping.
Around this time, I became more aware of how many of my friends were in some form of therapy or counseling: how some people became devotees of therapy and others found it lacking; how, as my friends and I get older, we realize exactly how much we’ve used various things to self-medicate. And how little we are told about taking care of all parts of ourselves.
But outside of planning a few interviews, I kept this series in the back of my head.
The only reason this series is finally seeing the light of day isn’t a good one: a little over a week ago, a work acquaintance sent an intent to commit suicide as the subject line of a bcc’ed email.
So, this series isn’t going to be perfect and planned. Maybe it doesn’t need to be.
Maybe it’s supposed to be a little raw.
Maybe it doesn’t need to be perfect to help someone.
I’ve got a few things I’m working on: a couple pieces, some interviews to set up, a public document to open. But, hey, we’re wide open. If you know of good pieces or have a resource or a story to share, send it to us at email@example.com.
by Guest Contributor Jen, originally published at Disgrasian
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Across the board among minority groups in the US, stigmas surrounding mental health and treatment are much greater than they are for whites. So, while July is almost over, I hope this is only the beginning of the Asian American community and other minority communities championing a shame-free discussion about our mental health.
To kick off this month, my friend, Nigerian American poet and mental health advocate Bassey Ikpi, who started The Siwe Project to raise awareness of mental health issues in the African diaspora, declared July 2 “No Shame Day.” No Shame Day was designed to encourage people to share their stories and struggles with mental illness openly via social media. I’ve talked about my depression in the past–though upon reflection, not nearly enough given how much I care about destigmatizing mental illness–so I, of course, had to participate. (Plus, I want to be more like Bassey when I grow up. You would too if you knew her.)
by Guest Contributor Louise Tam, originally published at Hyphen Magazine
In September, I wrote a piece describing my perspective as a disabled woman of color and psychiatric survivor. I explored how race-specific self-killings are differentially represented by the media to demonstrate how public perceptions of suicide depend on social and political contexts. My intention was to de-sensationalize model minority suicide in order to draw attention to how particular non-white bodies are often presumed to be volatile and violent.
This month, I look more closely at clinical explanations of ethnic minority suicide and respond by citing current non-clinical and community-based anti-racist reflections on the significance of emotional pain and anger.
Before I proceed, I would like to draw attention to how the term suicide is invoked by the viewer rather than the subject of suicide: the neighbor who calls 911 rather than the person exhibiting suspicious behavior. This can have negative repercussions on the “allegedly suicidal” that we don’t often think about. In fact, daily we are surrounded by public campaigns that encourage us to report at-risk behavior with the intention of saving lives: we believe it is our civic duty to do so. This is especially true in communal living environments such as campus residences.
The “peril of help” arises in (1) how we, as the public, determine what is suspicious or at-risk behavior and (2) how our social infrastructure then deals with the people we “call out.” Behavior can be “cut out” of context, of an individual’s life history, when it does not make sense to onlookers, including family, friends, and employers. Behavior might not make sense and alarm us because an individual’s actions are inconsistent with social rules and, furthermore, associated with narratives of harm we are taught to recognize daily by institutions around us. For example cutting is strongly associated with suicide. Seen in the absence of context, most of us would be compelled to stop this action and probably call on professional expertise to intervene and solve what we identify as a threat. Continue reading
By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid
One of the perks of my particular role as Sexual Correspondent is getting to talk to some of the sexiest-to-me anti-racist thinkers. So, you can guess my response to Racialicious’ owner/publisher Latoya’s question: “Do you want to interview Tim Wise?” (Precise answer: “SSSSSQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Of course, Wise is happily married with children; thus, my lurve for the man stays at “SSSSSQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”)
If someone asked me what is it about Wise that makes me so swoony, I’d say—besides his sleepy, brooks-no-bullshit blue eyes, his Southern-gentleman smile, his Baptist-preacher rumbly voice, and his precise facial hair—that he does quite a bit of the heavy lifting on handling whiteness, especially white privilege and racism, so I don’t have to. To have someone like him on my side in this nastily trippy Mobius strip called Race in America is, frankly, quite endearing to me.
His latest book, Colorblind: The Rise of Post-racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity, is full of win because he succinctly takes apart the Obama Age meme of “post-racial” as well as its progenitor, the ableist term “colorblind(ness),” as the fallback retorts when race—and particularly racism—is discussed and/or called out.
In fact, as I will argue, colorblindness not only fails to remedy discrimination and racial inequity, it can actually make both problems worse. To begin, if the rhetoric of racial transcendence gives the impression—as it does, almost by definition—that the racial injustices of the past are no longer instrumental in determining life chances and outcomes, it will become increasingly likely that persons seeing significant racial stratification in society will rationalize those disparities as owing to some cultural or biological flaw on the part of those at the bottom of the hierarchy. In other words, racial bias would become almost rational once observers of inequity were deprived of the critical social context needed to understand the conditions they observe. Whereas a color-conscious approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of racial inequities and how they’ve been generated, colorblindness encourages placing blame for the conditions of inequity on those who have been the targets of systemic injustice. Ironically, this means that colorblindness, often encouraged as the ultimate non-racist mentality, might have the consequence of giving new life to racist thinking.
–From Colorblind: The Rise of Post-racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity
Andrea Plaid: In your book, Colorblind, you explain what it is. What is the difference between that and “race neutrality” (if there is a difference) and why doesn’t either work, specifically in the POTUS Obama’s case?
Tim Wise: I use them pretty interchangeably here. Basically, my argument is that post-racial colorblindness fails on two levels: 1) it fails to solve problems that are race-specific and caused by racism and discrimination, and 2) it fails to help build support for broader progressive social policy (contrary to the claim made by its proponents), because even when you put forth “colorblind” policy (like universal health care, more money for schools, a jobs bill, etc), it is perceived by whites as a racial transfer, because of the way social policy has been racialized for 40 years. So whites hear “black people” when you talk about any policy to help the have-nots or have-lessers. Which means that the right is going to use race as a weapon anyway, to push those buttons with whites, and when the president refuses to punch back, even against the most blatant and absurd examples of that racism and race baiting, it emboldens the bullies and makes him appear weak. Obviously, he has to be careful how he engages race, but the evidence I present in the book (which is based mostly on research from the field of social psychology) has found that allowing race to remain sublimated and below the surface actually makes it easier for people to act on subtle biases, because they can do so without ever having to confront the contradictions between who they claim to be (open-minded, non-racist, etc) and who they really are.
AP: If “colorblindness” doesn’t work, then why use it?