My friend, Dr. Hyeouk Chris Hahm, studies Asian American youth social-emotional health at Boston University School of Public Health. Asian Americans youth have high rates of depression and suicide (second only to Native Americans).
Dr. Hahm analyzes the root causes to come up with a multidimensional intervention program designed for high schools and colleges. Harvard is one of the universities using her program.
Dr. Hahm defines four distinct Asian American parenting types: A-Abusive, B-Burdening, C-Culturally Disjointed, D-Disengaged, and G-Gender Prescriptive. What she found is that A, B, C, D, G parenting predicts their children’s poor mental health. It turns out that Asian immigrant parents carry a lot of untreated trauma that often goes untreated.
Of four different types of Asian American parenting styles — Supportive Parents, Tiger Parents, Easy Going Parents, and Hostile Parents — guess which parents have the best outcomes in terms of their children’s G.P.A., low depressive symptoms, and low parent-child alienation?
It’s not Tiger Parents. It’s actually Supportive Parents.
In fact, the most successful Asian American Parents are 1) Supportive Parents, 2) Easy Going Parents, 3) Tiger Parents, and 4) Hostile Parents. So it turns out, that doing nothing in terms of parenting is more successful than Tiger Parenting!
It’s difficult to catch Asian American students’ depression because it often manifests in symptoms of headaches, stomach aches, and even physical collapse. Their depression is hidden.
Asian American parents don’t tend to express their love of their children verbally to them. It’s often through food. Dr. Hahm encourages us to tell our children that we love them!
Dr. Hahm has found that Asian Americans are the least likely to seek mental health services. It’s not just the stigma that is part of Asian culture, but it’s the disconnect between non-Asian American therapists understanding Asian American culture. For example, women that Dr. Hahm talked to who sought mental health services were told to walk away from their families as the proposed solution. This is not really a viable option given the importance of family to Asians.
Dr. Hahm stressed the need for an umbrella of support for the Asian American community to improve mental health outcomes. She talked about the need for Asian Americans to pursue positions as public officials, teachers, and mental health professionals. As a group, we tend to get pushed towards STEM careers such as doctors and engineers but that leaves large gaps of cultural understanding that leaves our youth vulnerable.
She concludes with one question, “How can we help our community?” It’s a question that each of us should ask ourselves. Our children are not going to grow very well unless we all work together.