A group of students gathered on the front steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library on Friday evening for Breaking the Silence of Stigma on Mental Health, an event meant to address how stigma surrounding mental health impacts communities of color.
Live Love Fitness LLF and the University of Michigan’s Asian American Association co-hosted the event. Different representatives from organizations across campus also came to support including the Black Student Union, CAPS in Action, United Asian American Organizations and Hope for the Day.
Tiffany Yoo, event organizer and the founder of Live Love Fitness LLF, spoke at the event about her struggles with mental health from middle school to college. Her speech centered around how she felt she couldn’t confide in anyone throughout high school and most of college.
“During my senior year of high school, I was bullied and that didn’t help with the depression, which I didn’t really understand because nobody would talk about it,” Yoo said. “Nowadays people know what depression is, even as a child. But back then I had no idea what it really was because I thought I didn’t know anyone who had it because no one would talk about it.”
Yoo explained the stigma surrounding anxiety and depression held her back from going out of her comfort zone and making new friends.
“I was very afraid of people knowing what I was going through because I just wanted to make new friends,” Yoo said. “I didn’t want people to gossip about me, to be mean, label me as like, ‘Oh, she’s like that depressed girl, she has issues.’”
Yoo decided to create the event to address the specific challenges Asian Americans face around mental health. LSA senior Jason Lee, the advocacy chair for UAAO, agreedt that discussing mental health is a taboo in Asian American communities.
“Breaking the stigma is important because no one talks about it. When you put it in the context of the Asian American sphere, you are kind of taught to be silent,” Lee said. “Whenever there is an injury, whether it’s your physical or mental well-being, you never talk about it. It probably amounts to something bigger and it gets to a point where you just kind of burst. And I think that is something that resonates with a lot of people way too often and way too much.”
In a speech, LSA senior Thomas Vance, a representative from BSU, discussed the different challenges students of color face when trying to discuss their mental health with their families.
“There are a couple common themes. The first one is religion,” Vance said. “A lot of Black elders say, ‘Oh, you can just pray it off,’ or ‘Oh, that’s Satan.’ Those are not very helpful, especially if you’re not religious but your parents don’t know you aren’t religious.”
Vance also noted how parents may sometimes believe in their child’s mental health struggles, but do not perceive it as a top priority. He also discussed the varied resources on campus for students struggling with their mental health, including the Counseling and Psychological Services and the student organization Wolverine Support Network.
“(CAPS) really helped me my sophomore year to develop tools and coping strategies, and those types of things … It’s definitely been effective for me,” Vance said. “Wolverine Support Network is a student-run mental health organization that just creates different spaces for students in different places of community. They are always trying to branch out and seek new members but also seek new people who are just interested in having those types of conversations.”
LSA senior Catherine Gong came to the event as a student representative from the CAPS in Action program. She discussed the importance of hosting this event at the beginning of the school year during September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month.
“I think that student suicide is not a heavily discussed topic, but it’s very prevalent,” Gong said in an interview with The Daily. “Suicide is the No. 2 leading cause of death in college-aged students, so it’s definitely something that’s really prevalent, but not heavily talked about. I think that events like this are pretty important because they bring problems like this to the surface.”