Letter to the Editor: Breaking the Brick Wall of Mental Health Stigma Within Minority Communities
by Brandon Chu and Zadrian Huang | published Mar. 5th, 2020
Undetected by peers and the community, many Asian American and Pacific Islander students are subject to the internalization of academic pressure and Eastern values carried overseas by their parents. More recently, attention from the RIT community has been directed to address the lack of proper resources to support aspects of mental health among the student body.
On September 19, 2019, the RIT Associate Chapter of Lambda Phi Epsilon hosted guest speaker JR Kuo in an evening program centered on destigmatizing mental health. JR has spoken at over 60 universities in service of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, a nonprofit organization that advocates for increased access to high-quality mental health services and suicide prevention among youth.
JR led a powerful workshop about the importance of mental health awareness surrounding the student body at RIT. Richard Yu, philanthropy chair of Lambda Phi Epsilon, described how the event “felt refreshing to host a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds and to hear about their experience with mental health.“
Janice Fung of the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers reflected about it afterward in a short interview.
"JR raised attention to the rising concerns of mental health with statistical proof but challenged us to dig deeper into our lives,” she said. “Through his interactive exercises, we were able to reflect and share personal stories while listing strategies to start discussions about mental health.”
Reflecting on emotions is a necessary step to take to reach a safe and progressive campus climate. Naia Scott of Chi Upsilon Sigma Latin Sorority affirmed the timeliness and cultural relevance of the workshop.
"I appreciated the brothers of Lambda Phi Epsilon for bringing a new supportive voice to RIT to discuss the hang-ups we may have on improving our mental health,” Scott said. “I learned that the hesitation to admit we may need help expands across various cultures and it's time for us to break the cycle of just pushing through pain and ignoring the emotions that are causing us harm.”
Calvin Do of Asian Culture Society remarked, “JR focused on what it means to be mentally healthy and helps students see a different perspective. I especially liked his 'mental wall' activity, representative of those building walls around stigmas of mental health instead of breaking those walls down.”
JR’s mental wall activity consisted of anonymously writing down reasons why people do not talk about mental health and posting them on a wall. After reading over the responses in silence, participants were asked to grab one and respond with how to solve this issue, illustrating how students can work together to tear down the wall that society has built around mental health.
Members of Lambda Phi Epsilon feel strongly about raising awareness of mental health resources and encourage the campus and the greater community to break the stereotypes surrounding mental health stigma. No matter the difficulty someone might be experiencing with mental health, it’s crucial to take time to reflect and understand that there will always be help available within RIT’s campus ecosystem of professionals, staff, and student support systems.