Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Chinese Culture, Image, and Depression

Today I've got one of my faves on the blog! Val @ The Innocent Smiley wanted to take a look at how her Chinese culture views mental illness. She also did some research aka asked her mom things and went above and beyond for this. :) And I'm really excited to share this with you! But I'm gonna hand the post over to Val now. :D

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Hey guys! I’m Val from The Innocent Smiley and I’m here to talk about mental illness in Chinese culture. More specifically, growing up in a household that looked down on mental illness.


Before I begin, I do want to clarify that I’m only half Chinese. Obviously, my experience may be completely different from someone else, or it could also apply to other cultures and races. Either way, this post will mainly focus on what I’ve observed and taken in over the years, whether it’s from the observations of other Chinese families, or just my mom. But mostly I’ll be talking about my mom’s past opinions on the topic of depression.


Being around my mom made me realize how much she values image overall. How she holds herself, how she dresses, how she acts in front of her friends, and more importantly, the status of her children (in other words, me). This does not seem to only apply to her however, but also her Chinese friends. When it came time for me to apply to colleges, conversations at parties would solely revolve around what schools accepted us children, what scholarships we received, etc. My best friend’s mom forced her to apply to all Ivy League schools, rather than the schools she had on her list.



Now you may be asking, what does image have to do with mental illness? Well a lot actually. It means not showing others your struggles, or even telling them, in fear of being looked down upon. And growing up being surrounded by this constant reminder to be perfect and smart, it’s hard to talk to anyone about anything personal really.


And because there’s no discussion about mental illness in the Chinese community, it’s easy for information about it to be misconstrued. I distinctly remember a conversation with my mom about how my best friend took a year off from college because of depression. Her reply to it was, “Well why couldn’t she just be happy?”



Recently, I again brought up the topic of mental illness to my mom (just so I could write this post actually!). It’s hard to come out of a conversation with your mom thinking that depression just equals to being sad and too lazy to get yourself out of it. Mental illness isn’t just an on-off switch. Mental illness absolutely does not equate to laziness.



But I think there’s still hope with educating my mom. I feel as if her opinion on mental illness is coming around, as she suggests seeking professional help to anyone who needs it. That is definitely a step forward from a couple of years ago, when her only advice was to “be happy.” From what I’ve experienced, mental illness definitely seems like the least talked about topic in the Chinese community (or more specifically, the Chinese-American community). And honestly, I am not surprised in the least. But maybe someday in the future, more people will realize it’s something we should talk about. Because keeping quiet won’t do anyone any good.
 
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Thanks for sharing, Val! Also don't forget to enter the giveaway and be sure to check out Inge's, Shannon's, Topaz's, and Erica's blogs for more Shattering Stigmas posts! :)