Four University of Pennsylvania students have committed suicide in the past year. Following Wendy Shung’s suicide last August and Alice Wiley’s in December, Madison Holleran jumped off a parking tower in January and Elvis Hatcher hanged himself in February.
While the suicide of the Asian American student, Shung, passed without much reverberation across campus, the suicides of the three white students have sparked mourning and outrage.
Beyond college campuses, the average suicide rate of Asian Americans is about half that of the national average. Although this data seems to be another indicator of Asian Americans’ model minority status, a closer examination of the younger demographic reveals a more troubling picture. Asian American teenagers and college students experience greater rates of stress and harbor more suicidal thoughts than their non-Asian peers.
Although Asian American high school students attempt suicide at a higher rate than white students, their suicide rate somehow remains lower. Asian American students appear to suffer more, but they also endure more.
We endure because our parents did. When Holleran told her parents over Christmas that she was unhappy at school, they “begged her not to go back.” When I told my parents over Christmas that I was unhappy at school, they scolded me for my ungratefulness. My mother lectured me on how much she had sacrificed and saved to send me to an Ivy League school. She reminded me of what a privileged “brat” I am—someone who has never tasted poverty as my parents had, and who has never witnessed war as my grandparents had.