Stanford Tackles An Overlooked Epidemic Among Asian-American Students

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Noticing a dramatic increase in the rate of teenage suicides in the Asian community, San Francisco Bay is finally gearing up to do something about it.

San Francisco

A new parenting workshop on Asian parental expectations is compelling parents to address teenage issues like suicides and student distress in the San Francisco Bay area.

The workshop, produced by psychiatrists at Stanford University in Palo Alto, comes in wake of the nine suicides in the city — out of which four youth were Asian.

Schools, community leaders and parents will convene in Palo Alto on April 20 to address sensitive issues, like academic expectations, high counselor-to-student ratio and the stigma of mental illnesses in youth.

Previous efforts to eliminate symptoms of depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior have caused tensions between Asian parents, students and schools. Many highly motivated students and their parents believe school reforms might affect the quality of learning.

Earlier this year, Saratoga High School in California decided to push back its school time by almost a whole hour to give students more time to sleep — a move that some researchers allege is the single most effective way to help students’ health.

The plan was backed by the school teachers and counselors, yet their failure to openly debate the proposal with Asian parents — despite the fact there was a large majority of Asian population in the school — resulted in criticism and the reversal of the school’s timing schedule.

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California's Santa Clara County, responding to an urgent public health problem, called in the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in February to investigate the extent of health problems as well as identify risk factors in order to come up with preventive measures.

In November 2014, the CDC conducted a similar study in Fairfax, Virginia, and discovered 72 percent of youth suicides revealed mental problems.

Ivy Wu, a former schools trustee in Fremont, California — who went under a painful self-examination after her daughter started suffering from depression — has worked to reduce the unrealistic expectations of parents that are harming their children.

"I'm trying to tell parents, 'Don't look at your kids as a project. Help them develop their potential, but don't insist on your terms,’” she said. "Your kids don't have to go to an Ivy League school."

Psychiatrists from Stanford University will present vignettes on Asian parenting at Mills High School, west of San Francisco Bay area. The workshop is free and will have Cantonese and Mandarin interpretation.

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