Asian Women and Suicide tied to Model-Minority Stereotype

By The News May 18, 2007

In the wake of the VT shooting last month, another news source has confirmed what some mental health activists have been saying for years–and that is that racism and sexism has significant mental health consequences for those most impacted. This week, CNN reported that pressure to fulfill the model-minority stereotype contributes to the startling rate of suicide attempts among Asian American women. This main character of the story professor Eliza Noh, who began researching suicide among Asian women after her sister took her life, explained:

"In my study, the model minority pressure is a huge factor," says Noh, who studied 41 Asian-American women who’d attempted or contemplated suicide. "Sometimes it’s very overt — parents say, ‘You must choose this major or this type of job’ or ‘You should not bring home As and Bs, only As," she says. "And girls have to be the perfect mother and daughter and wife as well." … But Noh says pressure from within the family doesn’t completely explain the shocking suicide statistics for young women like her sister. She says American culture has adopted the myth that Asians are smarter and harder-working than other minorities. "It’s become a U.S.-based ideology, popular from the 1960s onward, that Asian-Americans are smarter, and should be doing well whether at school or work." Noh added that simply being a minority can also lead to depression. "My sister had a really low self-image. She thought of herself as ugly," she says. "We grew up in Houston in the ’70s and ’80s, and at that time in school there were very few Asian faces. The standard of beauty she wanted to emulate was white women." In college, Noh’s sister had plastic surgery to make her eyes and nose appear more European-looking.

You can see the full story here. Or check out one written for Women’s eNews a year back that looks better into the culture that creates the model-minority myth and perpetuate extreme gender roles.