How I Learned To Talk To My Filipino Mom About My Mental Health

It can be hard to talk with family members about issues like depression and anxiety. It’s especially difficult for the adult children of immigrant parents. NPR’s Malaka Gharib has this story of a Filipino-American woman working to change that.

MALAKA GHARIB, BYLINE: Twenty-eight-year-old Ryan Tanep (ph) is from Virginia Beach, Va. Her parents both came from the Philippines. Growing up, she often felt like she was living in two worlds – the American world and the Filipino world. And that had an effect on her emotional life.

RYAN TANEP: Emotions and feelings – just something you don’t talk about.

GHARIB: I know what that’s like. My mom is Filipino. When I was a kid and I told her about something that bothered me, she’d just tell me not to think about it.

TANEP: You just kind of soldier on through it and not really ever tell your parents or family members whenever you’re going through something tough.

GHARIB: Ryan remembers this one time when she was in high school. She came home crying because a girl had bullied her.

TANEP: And my mom told me to read the Bible. She said, just open it to whatever page it opens to, and something there is going to help you. And I remember doing that, and I’m like, why isn’t anything helping me?

GHARIB: Ryan says that her Filipino friends were bumping into the same problem. It was as if their parents were reading from the same script. And it turns out, they kind of were. Stephanie Balon is a Filipino-American youth and family therapist. She’s with the Daly City Youth Health Center in California. She says she hears stories like Ryan’s from her patients all the time.

STEPHANIE BALON: So when there is that disconnect between parents and children, you can imagine how isolating that can be.

GHARIB: One of the problems is that our hardships seem to pale in comparison to the incredible struggle our parents had to go through, leaving their homes to start a brand-new life in America. So it’s understandable why Ryan kept quiet about her feelings. And for years, she dealt with depression and anxiety.

TANEP: I didn’t tell anyone, you know?GHARIB: And when things got really bad, she thought about suicide.TANEP: Not only that but, like, a lot of people I know – one of my ex-boyfriends – him, too. I’ve had friends open up to me, like, this is what I’m going through right now. What do I do?GHARIB: Studies have found that Filipino-Americans have some of the highest rates of depression among Asian-Americans, yet they seek mental health treatment at the lowest rates. E.J. Ramos David is a Filipino-American psychologist at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He says Filipinos don’t […]

Continue reading the rest at www.npr.org

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