Stress management and life transition instagrammer Margaret Wang is a middle school counselor by day who works with at-risk youth who cope with anxiety and depression. A former competitive figure skater, Wang incorporates mindfulness, self-compassion, guided imagery, and goal-setting in her wellness and mental de-stressing exercises posts on her instagram page found here. This is asienne’s interview with Wang as she shares her own personal story on tackling mental health.
It’s always been an issue for me. In the past, I’ve dealt with panic attacks. I didn’t know [what they were] at the time. I felt like I was having a heart attack. I didn’t know how to cope with what was going on.
on stigma in AsianAm communities
I feel like it’s so important [to talk about]. The fact that there is such a stigma in our community and all people of color [POC]…I noticed it’s a lot easier to talk about issues that have to do with your body. Because of that, there’s a lot of POC who express things somatically.
Because there’s such a stigma and resistance to mental health, a lot of people’s symptoms are expressed somatically especially with POC.
For example: there’s a lot of issues related to high blood pressure and other physical health issues related to the immune system that are “socially acceptable” to talk about, but there’s really a deeper issue that’s going on.
For me personally, that’s the part of the reason why I’d like to be part of this field. I want to give back because of my own experience with anxiety.
I think I would like for people to be open to looking at deeper issues. I think there are a lot of family system issues.
We all have our skeletons in the closet and I hope we can tackle that shame.
I think that’s the biggest thing–there’s a lot of shame with our mental health. We’ve associated it with people who have schizophrenia and that’s not necessarily the case. Even if it is, there’s treatment for that nowadays.
I think it’s a cultural thing. There’s a lot of shame because as a collectivistic culture, I think the shame comes our having to maintain that face within our community. So, when it comes to mental health, it’s as if it’s a reflection of the family and the community.
on “cultural introversion” observations
When I took a year off from college because of some mental health issues, we had some Asian neighbors who shamed my parents. To people who are Caucasian, it’s not a big deal, it’s becoming socially acceptable to take a gap year.
So, I would really like for people to realize that it’s okay. It’s not about parenting. It’s not a reflection of what mom and dad did, or didn’t do well.
These are just my own observations:
In the Asian community, it’s like we’re more introspective and we’re a little more introverted.
So, because of that cultural component, it might come out a little more like a mental health issue. Especially in America and in other cultures where it’s more socially acceptable to be extroverted…maybe, social anxiety may come up, or maybe depression may come up because it’s not OK for people to be as introverted as they are.
But again, that’s not backed by research. That’s just my observation.
on POC issues
Another big issue is that I have a hard time talking about “People of Color” issues because sometimes our issues aren’t as severe in terms of the bigger system of oppression.
One of my best friends in college, he told me the police have called him while he was going into his apartment. His own apartment.
That is something that I do not struggle with and that is true. We do have a lot of things that save us but that’s kind of the reasons that it’s also very hard. It automatically creates a divide among other groups of people of color us from other people of color.
And it’s almost like another level of intra-racism like we’re not allowed to band with other people of color.
This interview was condensed for time.