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SF Chronicle "Theater becomes therapy to help South Bay Asian American Parents understand their

Eun Kyung Joanne Lee (left), adjunct clinical instructor at Stanford, and Rona Hu, a Stanford University psychiatrist, perform a mother-daughter skit in the Milton Marks Auditorium at the state building in San Francisco. The two are part of CHIPAO, or the Communication Health Interactive for Parents of Adolescents and Others. Photo: Yalonda M. James / The Chronicle

The first day of school is on the horizon for Bay Area teenagers, and with the fresh notebooks and new locker combinations also comes a set of Asian American parents determined to change how their peers look at the taboo topic of mental health.

With depression and suicidal thoughts on the rise among American teenagers, psychologists say building honest communication between parents and their kids is key to addressing and treating mental illness. That can be especially difficult for Asian American families steeped in cultures that won’t openly address psychological problems. Instead, experts say, some may dismiss it or try to hide it like a family secret.

Rona Hu, a Stanford University psychiatrist, and Eun Kyung Joanne Lee, adjunct clinical instructor at Stanford, said Asian American parents often seem “strict and unforgiving.” They seek “easy solutions,” which could alienate kids in the end, over sitting down and asking children about their struggles.

“They want a simple solution, and all of a sudden, their kids are grown up and they don’t call anymore,” Lee said.

Many of those parents focused on the academic rigor of Bay Area high schools when they immigrated to the United States in search of better economic and educational opportunities. They sought chances to get their kids ahead, said Yi Ding, co-president of the Asian American Parents Association in Cupertino.

But as they settled and got more civically involved — and with the advent of the internet and social media — those parents realized a crucial component of enabling success is providing emotional support.

read the rest of the article here at SF Chronicles website.

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