Kristina Wong came out to Pomona College on March 1st for a screening of Wong Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and a subsequent Q&A. A summary of the movie, I think, you can find anywhere. It’s about mental health issues that API women face, looked at humorously but also critically.
Now I think that API women have high rates of depression and suicide is not something that is new to those of us who live this experience, whether within ourselves or within our communities. It recently occurred to me that non-API people might not know about the mental health issues API communities face, even if they know and joke about the academic pressures via vehicles like Tiger Mom or Asian Dad Memes, which are of course not the only way that mental health issues manifest in API women, just like how the model minority myth is not the only thing API communities are limited to. (something the film shows quite well) What is more is that we don’t talk about it.
What this film brought to the table then, for me, is a visibility and recognition of depression and suicide in API women that isn’t usually addressed in popular culture and usually isn’t funny. The humor was crucial to the movie, as a way of lightening up and adding complexity to the material. Often there is a singular focus on a serious issue, which creates a one-dimensional image that is dehumanizing in its own way. We’re not all academic superstars, but we’re also not all perpetually sad. Wong mentioned the necessity of humor for her in the Q&A session, as a way for her to keep herself from becoming too overwhelmed by the darkness of the topic. There’s a lot to be said for humor as a productive survival strategy, and it was integral to the movie.
So yeah, after the movie ended we had a pleasant little Q&A. There had been around 35 people in attendance, and a few of them left afterwards, but a few people also stayed to ask questions ranging from what the process of the making the movie was like to what they as individuals could do to help. We invited Gary DeGroot from the Monsour Counseling Center to answer questions and view the film, and he was a great help.
I think we were reluctant to have a therapist facilitating the Q&A session, as a lot of people of color I know are wary of Monsour and psychiatric services, but having a professional there who could answer heavy-hitting questions was nice. Wong mentioned this after the event, but she prefers to facilitate Q&A with mental health professionals because what happens after screenings like these is that people do ask very serious and hard questions about circumstances, events, friends, that she finds difficult and unqualified to answer. Looking at it from her point of view, I can definitely understand why now.
Someone posed a question during the Q&A that I continue to ponder: Sometimes within a community, people need to avoid discussions about mental health in order to protect themselves. If it’s crucial to have open, honest conversations about mental health, but it’s too painful for people to talk about, then how do we navigate that?
Thanks to Kristina Wong, Michael Closson, and Gary DeGroot for coming out and facilitating discussion, and thanks to everyone who showed up for the film. You can view a trailer for the film here.
originally posted at: http://shadowings.dreamwidth.org/188941.html