Chinese Americans speak out in mental health series

Community group Asian Spectrum produced “Your Mental Health: From Childhood to Golden Age,” a series on mental health in Chinese Americans. Highlights were played during a screening on Nov. 17 at Tufts Medical Center.

By Ling-Mei Wong

When Cherry Wong told her parents about the bullies who threw her books away and called her “chink,” her dad thought it was no big deal.

“It’s normal — I got bullied in school and did some bullying myself,” said Andy Wong, a former television producer in Hong Kong who now runs a video production business. “I didn’t realize how bad it was, until she wanted to kill herself.”

The project was funded by Tufts Medical Center’s Asian Health Initiative program.

Mental illness has a stigma in the Chinese community, making it difficult for affected individuals to seek help. “Many people feel ashamed about their problems and doubt the treatment,” said George Hsu, a retired professor of psychiatric medicine at Tufts Medical Center, who participated in the series.

Hsu retired in July, after being a psychiatrist for nearly 50 years. “However, there was no one who could take care of my 200 Chinese-speaking patients, so I still come in once a week,” he said.

The taboo nature of mental illness results in untreated cases in the Chinese community. In an Alzheimer’s study, 60 percent of Caucasian patients sought treatment after being diagnosed, Hsu said. However, for Chinese Americans, only 10 percent of them got treatment.

“Five years ago, we realized there was a need for more information on mental health,” said Diana Jeong, President of Asian Spectrum. The resulting series required hours of filming and editing, but was ultimately a “labor of love.”

The series was completed by volunteers in their spare time. “I’d not make dinner after work and go to sleep at midnight or 1 a.m.,” said Melody Tsang, who produced the series. Tsang is the Multi-Service Center coordinator at the Asian American Civic Association.

For Cherry Wong, she was treated for her depression and agreed to appear in the mental health series as a bullying survivor.

“I got involved with this project because my daughter was bullied and my family was affected,” said Andy Wong. “I hope my family’s experience can help the Chinese community.”


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About Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美

Editor of the Sampan, the only bilingual Chinese-English newspaper in New England

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