Bruce Reyes-Chow: Thinking About Teen Suicide Again


Through a confluence of events this week, I watched a video that I made in 2010 in response to a few very publicized teen suicides. This was not scripted or edited. Just me trying wandering with words for myself and for our communities.

And then this morning I stumbled upon this post from New American Media, A Psychological Lifeline for Asian American Teens that included the following section.

Losing Diana 

Almost a decade ago, on March 6, 2004, the police knocked on Wei's door, bearing devastating news. Diana, a sophomore at New York University, had jumped to her death from the roof of her boyfriend's Manhattan apartment building. By many accounts, the two had a troubled relationship; earlier that day, they had been arguing.

At Monta Vista, Diana, who grew up in a successful Taiwanese American family, was an A student, track athlete and captain of the girls' basketball team. "In high school, everything was very easy for her," Wei says.

After graduation, Diana went to University of California, Los Angeles, but transferred to NYU as a sophomore to be closer to her boyfriend, also a student there.

After two months in New York, she took her life. She was 19.

Looking back, Wei says that she didn't know enough about depression to understand how much Diana was at risk. She had suspected, though, that her daughter was in a bad relationship. Wei felt uneasy enough to confide in her social circle.

"I talked to all my friends and they said, 'Oh, it's a boyfriend. She'll get over it. This is nothing. She'll find somebody else. This is just a stage.' "

But Diana was cutting off contact with close friends and isolating herself. She stopped wearing makeup and changed her way of dressing, hiding herself underneath layers of clothing. She threw out old clothes and photos, as if attempting to erase her past.

"Those behavior changes were so obvious of being depressed, but we were so naïve," Wei says.

In many Asian American communities, depression and suicide are taboo subjects that cause shame. When Diana died, Wei's friends, also of Asian descent, rallied to show support, taking her out to lunch every day for several weeks. But of Diana's death, "they wouldn't talk about it at all," she says. "And for a long time, I couldn't either."

I read these stories and my heart breaks.

No easy answers, but it has got me thinking again about young people who struggle with so much these days. The world is so much more complicated than when I was growing up and it seems that we adults too often make is that much more difficult.

I have no answers, but I am reminded, again, by my own words that we must do and be better.

I did list some links on the original post, but if you have any words of encouragement or links for young folks and/or their families, please post them in the comment section.

Taken with permission from Bruce's blog. Follow Bruce on Twitter @breyeschow