When Alex Villaneda was 15, his father passed away. It began a years-long bout with depression that he felt he could not tell anyone about.
It was something like a slap in the face because I never knew depression could affect me. I couldn’t help to think, “why me?” from then on I began to cry myself to sleep every night, and I closed myself off from everyone.
Many young people experience post-college depression. For most, the period marks the first time outside of a school setting, causing an identity crisis of sorts. No longer students, work becomes the next foundation upon which to build a life.
Many people talk about depression when they’re feeling sad. But Sonia, who was on the youth panel at a community forum for advocates, health-care providers and media, explained to a packed room that what she experiences is very different from feeling a bit down.
Some 30 percent of adolescents in California report experiencing depression or related feelings, such as anger, anxiety or guilt, according to Kidsdata.org. As with Morimoto’s friend, many of these young people turn to their peers first for help.
I was what you would consider a bully. I bullied kids because I was always the big one, the tallest in class and the thickest, too. I had an advantage since all the kids my age were usually smaller and more delicate.
It’s unusual enough for an Asian American parent to discuss mental health with teens, given the stigma that surrounds mental illness in many Asian American communities. But Wei speaks with an indisputable authority: a teenage son who struggled for years with minor depression, a daughter who took her life in college.
Make no mistake: most Asian American teens are emotionally healthy and thriving. But government statistics suggest that a substantial number struggle emotionally. Among Asian American high school students, 29 percent have reported feeling “sad or hopeless” for at least two weeks in a row during the past year.
This week, clinicians, researchers, insurers and patients have a new handbook for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM-5 (the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) contains changes that will affect young people specifically, including new guidelines on how to measure and document suicidal behavior in adolescents.
Dr. David Shaffer, Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Columbia University, worked on this section of the new manual, and he gave us a little background.