Today is September 10th, and it is World Suicide Prevention Day, part of this week’s National Suicide Prevention Week. On this week — and especially on this day — mental health advocates around the world join forces to try and raise awareness about mental health, mental illness and suicide, and erase the stigma around these conversations.
As I’ve written in the past, ending the stigma around conversations on mental health and suicide within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are of critical importance to me. Those who live with depression fight an invisible and omnipresent daily battle, and many of them are part of our community: Asian American women have the highest rate of depression and suicide among women of any race and ethnicity. On college campuses, Asian American youth report higher rates of depression symptoms — regardless of gender — than do their White peers. Yet, due in part to stigmas surrounding mental illness and inadequate mental health resources, Asian Americans have among the lowest rate of reporting for symptoms of depression, and wait until symptoms are more severe before they decide to see a doctor.
Consequently, suicide rates are alarmingly high among Asian Americans. As mentioned, Asian American women of most ages have the highest rate of suicide among women of all races, as well as the higher rates of contemplating suicide. Studies show that Native Hawaiians have high rates of contemplating suicide, and Pacific Islander youth, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ, had markedly higher rates of self-harm and suicide than White gay or straight teens. Southeast Asian Americans ethnicities commit suicide at the highest rate of any refugee population, and at rates several times greater than the national average. Two studies conducted in 1994 also revealed that Chinese American and Japanese American elders — particularly elderly men — had the highest rate of suicide among any elderly population within the United States.