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Suicide & Ethnicity: How Asian shame and cultural stigma make Asians prone to suicide in the U.S.

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Suicide is the leading cause of death among Asian-Americans aged 20-24 years old at more than 30%.  White Americans rank second in this age bracket coming in at under 20%.  Among other ethnic groups, Latinos have a 15% chance of suicide and African-Americans have an 8% rate of dying by suicide.

You may ask how culture can play such a pivotal role in this alarming rate?  First off, Asian immigrants to the U.S. bring centuries-old viewpoints on education, mental health, and cultural identity.  First among these is the understanding of cultural Asian shame.  This is the belief that Asians come from traditional collectivist societies that value interdependence over independence.  Consequently, the need to preserve and perpetuate collective honor (i.e. family, ethnicity, society, etc.) is held in highest esteem.  Failing to do so leads to what I’ve coined as “Asian shame”, where one feels they have so disgraced their kin they must hide oneself (i.e. physical and/or emotionally) or rid oneself from society and atone for their actions by suicide (see past blog titled, “Asian shame and suicide”).

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Perfectionism: The other side of Shame

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In my work as a psychotherapist, speaker, and workshop facilitator specializing in Asian cultural shame, people sometimes forget that shame doesn’t just show up in “negative” contexts as it can also rear its ugly head in “positive” ones, such as perfectionism.

Perfectionism can have dire mental health consequences that impact an individual and lead to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and a host of other addictions. A recent study of over 40,000 American, Canadian and British college students published in the journal Psychological Bulletin(Dec. 2018) looked at three different dimensions of perfectionism and found a 10% to 33% rise over three decades. The researchers point to several contributing factors, including “more unrealistic expectations and more anxious and controlling parents than generations before.”

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Jeremy Lin is a Champion: Minutes don’t Matter

Asian Christianity, Race Matters: Candid Conversations on Race & Culture0 comments

When the Toronto Raptors won its first NBA Basketball Championship on June 13th, the nation of Canada exploded in celebration.  One player, Jeremy Lin, a Taiwanese-American was also on the roster.  While his contribution on the court and playing time was minimal, he too celebrated as a member of the Raptors.

When media outlets point out he made history as the first Asian-American NBA Champion, many critics scoffed.  They cited, he only played 27 minutes throughout the entire playoffs, with all the minutes meaningless to the outcome.  

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