“My sister killed herself when she was 18. We both dealt with depression during high school, the pressure of securing a financially stable job right after college, and the unreasonable expectations to do well in school, where anything below an A was unacceptable. Our older brother has always been a Dean's list, perfect GPA, and top 10 student throughout high school, undergrad, and med school. Neither of us knew what we wanted in life, but neither of us wanted to choose or have our paths chosen for us. We wanted our lives to mean something; we wanted a journey like we often saw in anime growing up. Instead, our parents decided what we would study in college for us, and if we didn't stick with their decisions, they would financially cut us off and not allow us to use the college funds they had set up for each of us. I often saw it as having one foot in the grave, but nonetheless, when I went to college, I studied what my parents wanted me to study, but only because I was good at math. Any ambition I had to study something else was immediately smothered.
My third year in college was the last year my sister was alive. She's the youngest, and I suppose watching her two older siblings get through high school and college made her want to do better as well. She had a little sticky note above her desk where she wrote "Don't disappoint [my name] and [brother's name]". She studied so hard everyday. I often teased her that she studied too hard: I rarely studied in high school and got out just fine, though I was just an average A/B student. There was one assignment that she had failed, and I think that's what pushed her over the edge. She saw herself as worthless, stupid, never going to amount to anything, unsuccessful. I wish I could tell her about my first quiz in high school where I got a 52. I wish I could tell her about how I ended up with a D in biology in college, how I struggled to end with a C in most classes, and how despite all that, I'm still the shameful owner of a piece of paper that tells me I have a degree. She died 4 years ago. So much can change in 1 year, I wonder where she would be in 4? My dream was for my sister and I to live in our own apartment together. I wanted her to be my maid of honor if I ever got married. I talked to her almost every day, and now I still struggle to talk to anyone about my true feelings. I find myself feeling lonely every night. I dream about her sometimes, and they're the best and the worst dreams. I cry often because I don't have her here anymore, and I never will. 4 years and the pain of losing my sister hasn't really stopped. I don't really talk about it to any of my friends because they don't understand, or I don't want to make anyone else suffer with me. I don't talk to my brother or my parents about it either. It took me 3 years to find a therapist that I felt like I could safely talk to. I don't make a lot of new close friends anymore. I still flinch when I hear the word "suicide", and my mood will go to 0 when I hear people joke about killing themselves. My sister and I never seemed like we were close. We were constantly fighting and never hugged each other. I guess it's true when they say you never know what you have until you've lost it. A part of me died that day along with her. I still struggle with my own mental health and find it hard to help others when I can't even help myself at times. But take it from someone that knows the aftermath of suicide: please don't kill yourself.
My Asian parents and relatives have a hard time grasping the concept of mental health. When I started taking Lexapro, my father was vehemently against it. He told me "It's all in your head. Just stop thinking about it, and stop thinking about being sad." I personally believe that's just as bad as telling anyone with an illness that it's just in their head as well. There also is a stigma that if you're not fearless and determined, you are weak. It's such a shameful thing for my parents to admit 2 of their kids suffer(ed) from depression, and insist that it is our own faults.
The lack of diversity among mental health providers and cultural competency is sad in itself. The majority of therapists in the pool of North Texas are white, older therapists. If we're sorting by coverage with insurance, that pool gets minimized instantaneously. There are very very very few Asian therapists, and the 2 that I have seen, came off in exactly what you would expect an Asian parent to say. "Maybe your friends aren't the ones you want to have around forever, but just forget about them, they aren't important, focus on your health and career." The 3 white therapists I have seen were older and Christian. While I have no qualms about Christianity, I myself am not Christian and do not feel comfortable with religious therapy. I finally clicked with a younger white lady. I pay for therapy myself. My parents do not believe that talking to someone for an hour a week will make anything better. They ask me to talk to them instead, but that usually ends in a disaster. Another issue I had was when I was helping a friend find a therapist for an Asian mother of a mentee she had. While I recommended my therapist or finding someone who had experience with adolescent teens, the Asian mother voiced her concern of young therapists not having enough experience. It infuriates me that there is a barrier between a child and mental wellness being decided by Asian parents who know nothing of the struggles of mental health. Most of my friends and I, being second generation immigrants, we often get guilt tripped by our parents telling us they came to a foreign country with little to no money and a language handicap but have worked their backs off and become successful. They compare their hardship with our struggles and minimize the impact these have on our daily lives. Asian parents need to be more open and willing to allow their child to seek help and not be afraid to ask. It only drives a wedge into the relationship to be denied help, and breaks trust. While I know my parents still disagree with me with what helps with my mental health, I appreciate that they stay silent about it rather than belittle me. Don't deny or minimize your own feelings in fear of your parents or because you believe other people have it worse. Please get help, and don't give up if something or someone doesn't work for you.”