How seeing negative stereotypes of Asian Americans can affect mental health

The month of May is dedicated to both Asian American Pacific Islander heritage and mental health awareness. The youth mental health podcast "On Our Minds," which is part of Student Reporting Labs network, takes a look at the toll Asian American stereotypes take on teen mental health and well being. Podcast host Faiza Ashar delves into the topic with student filmmaker Mabelen Bonifacio.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The month of May in the U.S. is dedicated, among other things, to Asian American Pacific Islander heritage and mental health awareness, two subjects Mabelen Bonifacio knows well.

    She is a teen filmmaker from Georgia whose films focus on growing up and identity.

    Faiza Ashar, who is the host of our Student Reporting Labs' youth mental health podcast "On Our Minds" recently spoke to Bonifacio about the toll Asian American stereotypes take on teen mental health and well-being.

    Faiza Ashar, "On Our Minds": Hi, Mabelen. Great to talk with you today.

    I loved your video. Tell me more about what compelled you to make the video.

  • Mabelen Bonifacio, Student Filmmaker:

    So, basically, the whole "Nothing Less" video was kind of based off of a different video that I also made.

    Basically, the whole thing between the both of them was me trying to tell my own narrative. And so I found, like, film competitions that prompted me and allowed me to tell that story that I wanted to tell.

    Every movement has had its shine. But the one that's been closest to me has been the fight for respect by the Asian American and Pacific islander community.

    Growing up in a predominantly white and Hispanic Latino community didn't give me a lot of opportunities to connect with my own culture.

  • Faiza Ashar:

    How do you think stereotypes within the AAPI community, or better known as the Asian American Pacific Islander community, negatively impact our community as a whole?

  • Mabelen Bonifacio:

    It definitely does impact people in a way that any stereotype would, and just getting diminished of your personality just because of, like, who you are, and just being thought of as this one thing, the one really smart kid who's always good at math.

    Like, that was always something for me growing up. I would always feel like I could not do less than, because everyone was like, oh, she's the Asian kid. She's going to get straight A's. She's going to get straight 100s.

  • Faiza Ashar:

    So, how has this kind of diminishing or boiling down your accomplishments as just an Asian, how has this impacted your mental health?

  • Mabelen Bonifacio:

    I think it was at the end of middle school where it really hit the hardest, because it was that transition, and just the growth that people normally go through transitioning from middle school to high school, and just adding all of my identity onto that, because I felt like I didn't know who I was.

    And I was just living based off of the expectations that other students at my school had of me of what my parents thought of me, what my sister thought of me.

  • Faiza Ashar:

    Wow, I'm getting emotional hearing this, because I feel like this is something that is so common, especially in the Asian community.

    And we often don't talk about it, because there's such a stigma surrounding mental health.

  • Mabelen Bonifacio:

    Sometimes, the first step in people's lives is to acknowledge the presence or existence of mental health issues.

    And, sometimes, all it takes to take that first step is to have a conversation with one of your friends or someone that you trust and be like, am I really OK? Because, sometimes, you're not, and that's fine.

    And then you just need to work your way around it. And then growth isn't linear. So, even if you're on that journey, if you go downhill at some point, it's not the end of the road.

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