Reflect: Discussing Mental Health With A Traditional Tiger Mom

I know it’s the end of May, but I wanted to write a blog post in honor of both Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month.

My college graduation! (LTR: Dad, Big Sister, Me, Mom)

So to give a little bit of background, my immediate family consists of my parents, my older sister, and me. My parents are probably the most stereotypical first generation Chinese parents around. (By first-generation, I mean that my parents both immigrated to the United States. My sister and I were both born in the United States, making us second generation.)

My parents are very stubborn in their ways. By that I mean they’re incredibly traditional and strict. My sister and I weren’t allowed to stay over at friends’ houses, no boyfriends were allowed until after we graduated college, and we were only allowed to be out until 9PM the absolute latest. My sister and I had chores, always had to finish our homework before we could use the computer, and made sure we got the best grades possible. I am honestly proud to say that the strict rules my parents raised me with is what helped shape me into the hardworking individual that I am today.

Although I lived under strict rules, I’m so grateful for my parents. They both came to the United States with nothing and built a life for my sister and I. We had the privilege of growing up with a roof over our heads,  food always on the table, and the opportunity to pursue a higher education. I am so proud to be an Asian American and I am forever thankful for my parents and everything they’ve done for me. I’ll share more about my parents in a future blog post.

What I wanted to delve into was my experience with discussing mental health with my mom. When I was growing up, I didn’t have the awkward “birds and bees” talks that were in all the TV sitcoms I watched. Instead of hearing the traditional words “I love you,” I often heard “did you eat yet?” First generation Asian Americans have a different way of communicating their emotions, and sometimes it’s harder to interpret.

It’s common for first generation Asian Americans to not accept or understand mental health. A lot of my friends talk about their parents dismissing their issues with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. I had a friend that took his own life last year from depression and when I attended his funeral, my mom asked how he passed away. When I explained to her that he had depression, she told me that depression wasn’t real and that it couldn’t have been the reason he took his own life.

Before you get angry, I know it sounds ignorant that my mom said that about my friend, but I didn’t take offense to it. As strict and stubborn as my mom is, I realized that she just didn’t understand. Whenever I’m sick or physically injured, my mom always nurtured me to health. She was compassionate and understanding that I was unable to take care of myself. It’s not that she lacks the compassion, but rather, she lacks the understanding of how a mental health disorder can hinder someone from doing day to day things just like catching a fever can.

Mental health wasn’t studied when and where she was born, and I can’t blame her for not understanding it now. She’s old and set in her ways, but I love her still and I will continue to try to educate her on the importance of mental health for her own knowledge and benefit.

If you’re going through something but you’re concerned your friends and family won’t understand, don’t be afraid. If you’re not yet ready to tell someone you know, use the resources below to get the help you need.

National Suicide Prevention Line (24/7): 1-800-273-8255
Look for the Warmline in your county at
For more info on mental health visit

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Take care of yourselves and be proud of the heritage you come from!