Jaewon Lee: A Korean-American Mental Health Perspective

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I grew up in a sort of confusing cultural environment, where half the time (when I was at home), I was Indian, and half the time (when I was in school or with my friends), I was American. Culturally, I identify as Indian-American, and in many ways this identity has influenced the way that I look at mental health.

In both Indian and American culture, mental health, and especially the idea of having a mental illness is still heavily stigmatized, and this is just one of the ways my cultural identity influenced my mental health perspective. I think this is one of the reasons why I didn’t really care or worry about my mental health until I got to college: it was just always an extremely difficult thing to talk about. From the conversations about mental health that I did have with other Indians at that time, it seemed like the only thing that was really discussed was that if someone was acting out, they should be taken to a psychiatrist. Other than that, this person was gossiped about, and socially isolated because of their “bad” or “weird” behavior.

I hate to say it, but I was a participant in this. I did very little to stop these situations, to reach out to people when they needed me to, and even now I feel guilty that I did not realize how important mental health is, and how important it is to reach out to those whose mental health is suffering.

About the Speaker

This is why it is always refreshing to see other Asian Americans speaking up about their own mental health. Jaewon Lee, a student at the University of Washington, an A Capella group singer and a photographer, is one such Asian American. Jaewon and I met while working together at a tutoring center in the University of Washington, and I was so excited when Jaewon volunteered to speak on my show!

Jaewon tells us about her experience suffering from both depression and anxiety as a Korean-American, and what it meant to deal with that specifically as a Korean. Because of her experiences and lessons she learned, today she feels more independent and free to do those things that are best for her.

Moving Forward

Jaewon’s story is one that I felt I could personally relate to as an Asian American myself, but now we’d like to hear from you: How does your cultural identity influence your mental health perspective? Have you had any unique mental health experiences because of your cultural identity? Tell us by commenting on this post!

Thanks for sharing and joining the mental health conversation.

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Also published on Medium.