"On March 6, 2019, two children and a Vietnamese woman was found dead in a murder-suicide inside San Jose apartment," reads the headline. This tragic event rocked the Vietnamese community at its core. We need to bring more awareness to issues surrounding mental illness and depression in our community. We need to provide resources for them so they realize they are not alone and seek help when they need it.
I’d like to share with you my own story. A while back I, too, struggled with depression from being a Vietnamese, gay man, and weighing 210 lbs. Besides having to deal with self-identity issues, I struggled with my eating, my weight, finding a partner, seeking acceptance from my family, and looking for a place where I felt I belonged.
At the age of 16, living in Vietnam, I was sexually assaulted by a man. He was a powerful, well-known, and a well-respected man in Saigon, Vietnam. I became depressed and thought about exiting life on my own terms. In the past I often avoided using the phrase “battle with depression” because I felt I could never win and that it will someday take my life. Today, I can say I have won this battle. I kicked depression in the butt!
The journey to my victory began the moment I decided to ask for help. I reached out to a dear friend and that friend connected me with the resources that I needed. Without them I am not sure I would be where I am today. To win this battle, you must take the first step. You must ask for help!
I am committed to being here for you or anyone who is suffering from depression and wants to talk about what you are going through. I will show up and listen. I won’t give any advice simply because I am not fighting the same “battle.” I will just hold your hands and listen. I can also bring coffee and bagels if that’s your style. You can reach out to me via Email or Facebook.
If you know someone who may be suffering from depression, you too can help your friends, family, and loved ones. Follow these three simple things: Show Up, Engage, and Be Brave.
Show Up: Intentionally reach out to your loved ones. Set up time for coffee to catch up one-on-one. Group gatherings are great, but catching up 1:1 will strengthen your relationships. Show up at community events. Offer to help plan events. Make yourself available to help others. Be available.
Engage: Put your phones and laptops away. Listen without interrupting. Don't finish people's sentences. Don't attempt to rephrase someone else's statement. Listen. Hold their hand if applicable, and just listen.
Be Brave: To be brave is to be vulnerable. Tell your family and friends you want to help them but don't know how. Tell them you can see they are stressed or looked sad and you are available to talk whenever they feel ready. Share your own struggles. Take down the walls around your hearts and invite them in. Ask your loved ones to do the same. Ensure them that information shared with you will be kept confidential. Don't offer advice from your own experience. Just ask how you can help them.
p/s: I want to end my story with a quote about how wonderful it is to be alive, but this Johnny Mathis’ song will do the job just fine.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-4357
For places within the San Jose, CA area:
NAMI Santa Clara County (Non-profit organization)
Momentum for Mental Health (mental health service)
ACT for Mental Health (mental health clinic)
Mental Health Urgent Care (mental health clinic)
REACH (mental health service)
Narvaez Mental Health (mental health clinic)
San Jose Behavioral Health (addiction treatment center)
Alum Rock Counseling Center (youth social services)
Crestwood Behavioral Health (wellness center)
Gardner Health Center (medical center)
Good Samaritan Behavioral Health (mental health services)
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I wear multiple hats in life and at work. By the end of the day, I just want to be known as someone who spends his life trying to improve the quality of life for people with visual impairment, especially in Vietnam.