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A Study in Korean American Mental Health…


A new friend shared with me the following this morning. I believe that for those of us who work with families and teens, the key thing to remember is persistence. When someone doesn’t open up on the first dozen phone calls, visits, youth retreats, etc., keep digging in.

A team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been studying “Korean American Mental Health in its Familial Context.” Their preliminary findings available on the web include:

“ … hints of some [adolescent] behavioral problems (e.g., suicidal ideation, minor conduct problems such as stealing and running away from home) that appeared to be related to family pressures and strains. However, these instances of adolescent behavioral problems did not for the large part manifest in overt family dysfunction, as the adolescents and parents appeared to “contain” and manage this suffering. We nonetheless consider this type of evidence as pointing to the significant level of psychological suffering among Korean American parents and children despite the manifest resilience they exhibit. To have the whole family succeed in the immigration enterprise involves much psychic energy, pain, tension that must be managed by both parents and the children in order to contain and domesticate the individual frustration and to sustain the family.We have documented that these sufferings and struggles are largely kept private within families and are accessed by researchers ethnographically only after repeated contacts. For the rare families that publicly acknowledge and attempt to seek help for the “fall outs” (in the form of adolescent externalizing behavior), there are virtually no resources or accurate information to assist the parents and the children successfully negotiate these family crises.” [my emphasis added]

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About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

3 responses to “A Study in Korean American Mental Health…

  1. Cyrus ⋅

    thought you might find this interesting…

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/20/MNGHMPCDG41.DTL&hw=asian+american&sn=004&sc=734

    I asked prof. sue about this a couple days after and he told me similar things that are stated in the article. he was very reluctant to say (as in the article) that this had something to do with his Korean culture, but also again talked about how mental health services are not utilized and not really geared towards AA, and there is sort of a cultural stigma towards it. Also he noted that rampage shootings like this happen in America more frequently than in other places in the world.

  2. Great article. Thanks for the link. I’m convinced that the acceleration into “success” without addressing our dysfunctions and our wounds is problematic in this country as second generation. But the fact that “shootings like this happen in America more frequently than in other places” is only a matter of availability. i think if we take the time to look under the covers, we will begin to see more pathology than the previous generation would ever own up to.

  3. djchuang

    There indeed is that Asian cultural stigma against mental illness and resistance against mental health services or even Christian counseling. The prevailing practice among many Asians to hold the psychic tension within can manifest itself in domestic violence, dysfunctions, or just plain stunted in actually thriving and celebrating the every day enjoyment of life.

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