Zoo Discovers A Way To Cheer This Panda Up

Did you think only humans go through depression? Well Sijia is here to prove you otherwise. Sijia is a giant panda bear who lives in China’s Yunnan Safari Park and, you guessed it, she was depressed.

Sijia began showing signs of abnormal activity and depression after being separated from her panda friend, Meixi, who was sent to a zoo in Sichuan. The two had lived together since 2008 and Meixi’s departure clearly left Sijia lonely. Determined to lift her spirits, the staff at Yunnan Safari Park decided to add some joy into the panda’s habitat.

They built Sijia her very own amusement park.

The amusement park contained everything the panda needed to get her mind off of her missing friend. A wooden playground was built with all sorts of bars and swings. To keep Sijia company, the staff placed a life-size, fake panda into the habitat. The fake panda certainly doesn’t replace Meixi, but it helps with the loneliness.

Additionally, a plasma television was added into the enclosure. Don’t worry, the zoo didn’t expect Sijia to be caught up on all the latest shows. They simply felt that the panda would feel less lonely if she watched other pandas on the screen.

Sure enough, the amusement park appears to be working. Sijia is no longer moping around and is more cheerful– especially when she’s playing in her playground.

 

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Why I Never Told My Parents About My Postpartum Depression

by SHARLINE CHIANG for New America Media

My mother called like she did every week. “How are you?” she asked in Mandarin.

“Fine,” I lied.

“How’s the baby?”

“Good.” That was true.

Then, once again, I rushed her off the phone. “I’d love to talk but the baby’s crying.”

“Okay, I know you’re busy,” she said. “Don’t worry. I’ll call you next week.”

The baby wasn’t crying. She was sleeping. I wasn’t busy. I could barely do anything. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, could hardly dress myself.

After I hung up I pushed away from the table to lie down. I had used all my energy trying to sound normal.

How could I tell my 70-year-old mother who had finally become a grandmother the truth—that I was going crazy, that in two months since giving birth I had gone from being thrilled to fighting thoughts of killing my baby and myself?

I pictured my mother in the kitchen of my childhood home in Jersey, placing the phone back in its cradle before knitting another pink sweater for my daughter Anza despite the pain in her diabetic hands. She was probably sitting there, gray permed hair gripped by a plastic headband, eyes switching from smiling to intense (so much like Anza’s), trying to decide how else she could help. I could see her packaging more baby clothes, gifts from church. Later, she sent an email: “Don’t forget to write thank you cards to my church friends. And don’t forget to work on your belly weight.”

I wanted to say: I’m not okay, Mom. I’m so tired it hurts. I feel like I’m being electrocuted in a tub of ice water. I sweat. I shake. I have panic attacks. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m so scared.

I didn’t know I had postpartum depression—postpartum anxiety to be exact. Even after I found out and was diagnosed with severe PPD a month later, I lied. Even after I was put on anti-psychotic medicine, even after I was registered at the mental hospital in Berkeley, I lied. I lied, because I didn’t want my parents to worry. It seemed the right, Confucian, filial thing to do, to protect one’s elderly parents from one’s own suffering. Most of all I lied because I didn’t want to be judged. I already felt like such a failure. I was failing as a mother and I was ashamed.

Four years ago I had three miscarriages. “You’re not careful enough,” my mother said. “You’re too active.” While I was pregnant with Anza, I learned I had balanced translocation, a genetic condition. We needed to get lucky. Even after explaining this to her, my mother would insist: “Go on bed rest so it doesn’t fall out.”

I couldn’t risk hearing words that sounded like blame. I already felt it was my fault: I was too soft.

My grandmothers combined had birthed and raised 15 children while fleeing the Japanese, the Communists, and poverty. What right did I have to fall apart?

So I took selfies of me and Anza smiling and sent them to my parents every day.

I lied because even though depression is so common in Asian American communities, we rarely talked about it. The message I grew up with: your mental struggles are our own; it’s up to you to find the inner strength to “ren,” to endure.

The character for “ren” 忍 is the character for “knife” over the “heart.” Endure even when there’s a knife in your heart.

In my thirties I discovered talk therapy, tried to get my parents to go. Their response was basically: “That’s for white people.” “They hook you in,” my mother said. “You can never be cured.”

I wish mental illness didn’t come with stigmas. I wish I could have told my parents that my mind had broken just as easily as if I had to tell them my arm had broken.

Whenever my husband would say, “You really should tell them,” I felt that chasm again (he’s white, son of hippies). To him it was unimaginable to suffer the darkest period of your life and not tell your parents. Meanwhile, everyone in his immediate family knew. His mother and brother moved down from Canada to help take care of me.

The fact that I could get PPD never crossed my mind. I had no history of depression.

Two years ago while pregnant with Anza, I had spent thousands of hours reading about pregnancy and birth and exactly five minutes reading about postpartum depression.

On the cover of the brochure was a white woman with long brown hair. She was staring into space under the words: “Feeling Blue?” I took one look and said to myself: white woman, sad woman, that’s not me and that’s not going to be me.

I was 41. I had traveled the world, had a great career in nonprofit communications, and had married the man of my dreams. We lived in sunny Berkeley. We were finally having a baby. I was elated.

Looking back I wish more doctors had talked to us about PPD, its signs and how to get help. I wish someone had told us about Postpartum Depression Spectrum because PPD manifests in so many ways, including intense anxiety. I also wish I had been given articles written by survivors, especially other API women.

I got lucky. I found a psychiatrist who diagnosed me in time (I didn’t go to the hospital). The medication—Seroquel, Klonopin, and Zoloft—worked on me with no side effects. In six months, with the help of a therapist and support group, I stabilized significantly and was pretty much back to “myself” within a year.

I’m slowly accepting that there is a new me. The new me is more sensitive to stress. Like any survivor of a health crisis, I try to remind myself to manage my stress levels and overall health.

By the time my parents visited us again Anza was six months old. I was doing much better. They watched her eat her first solid food (mashed yams). It didn’t make sense to bring up my ordeal.

I don’t like lying to my parents. They deserve my honesty. If they ever read this, I want to say I hope you can forgive me and see that I did this out of love, love for you, and love for myself.

I hope if they come across this, or any of my other articles about my experience, they can understand that I’m trying to share my story to encourage other survivors to tell their stories, so we can let other women know that that they are not alone, that they’re part of a larger family of women who have been there too.

Sharline Chiang is a writer based in Berkeley, originally from New Jersey. She is a proud, long-time member of VONA, an amazing community of writers of color. Sharline previously wrote a piece for Mutha magazine about her experience with postpartum depression and anxiety.

This article was originally published by New America Media. Reprinted with permission.

Facebook Depresses Japan, Loses Popularity

Here at Audrey, we’ve known the dangers of facebook and social media for quite some time now. In our Fall 2013 issue, we pointed out that a 2013 study conducted by two German universities showed one in three people felt worse and more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting Facebook.

Users felt envy, loneliness and isolation, with the most common cause of Facebook frustration stemming from others’ vacation photos. The second most common cause of envy was social interaction — feeling a “lack of attention” from having fewer birthday greetings, comments and “likes” compared to friends.

 

And it wasn’t just college students. The study found people in their mid-30s were most likely to envy family happiness, while women were more likely to envy physical attractiveness. After all, what is Facebook but an online brag book for all to see? A 20-something colleague recently summed it up when asked why she posted so much food porn on Facebook: “To make people jealous.”

 

The term “facebook depression” began in 2011 after the study Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking was published by sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge. The study showed that those who spent less time on facebook seemed to live happier lives.

Of course, the repercussions of facebook depression is not simply confined to the US. In particular, Japan seems to have finally become overwhelmed by facebook depression.

In 2008, facebook launched in Japan and seemed to head towards instant success. At the end of 2012, the Japanese facebook site had over 17 million users. However, five months later, the amount of users became 13 million.

So what could be the cause of this very sudden and large drop? According to RocketNews24, Japanese Psychologist Kouji Yamada claims Japanese facebook users are “developing an inferiority complex about their lonely, boring and unsatisfying lives.”

Apparently, we’re not just too sensitive over here. The facebook depression syndrome may actually be a global issue.

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Identifying Depression: Find the Hidden Message

Take a look around you. Can you tell which person is going through pain or suffering? Chances are, probably not. The Singapore-based suicide prevention organization, Samaritans of Singapore created a series of ads using ambigrams to highlight how difficult it is in identifying and understanding depression. The printed ads featured positive messages, such as the one above, but when flipped upside-down, a more depressing message can be seen.

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Above: “I feel fantastic.” Below: “I’m falling apart.”

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“Life is great,” and “I hate myself.”

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“I’m fine,” and “Save me.”

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Like the ads say, “The signs are there if you read them.”

This is a particularly important issue within our own community. In our Fall 2013 issue, we delved deep into the topic of depression and mental health among Asian American women:

Asians are arguably the most wired people in the world, and we also bear the ignoble distinction of having the highest rates of depression. According to a 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Asian American teenage girls have the highest rate of depressive symptoms of any racial, ethnic or gender group. In fact, Asian American girls and women aged 15 to 24 die from suicide at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, and suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans overall (only ninth for white Americans). It’s not just young women either; Asian American women over 65 have the highest suicide rate in that demographic. And while some studies find depressive symptoms in 35 percent of Chinese immigrants, among Southeast Asians, 71 percent meet the criteria for major affective disorders such as depression.

 

 

Click here to read more.

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Drastic Changes in Asian American SAT Scores

The results are in and you are warned– they’re not pretty.

American highschools, as a whole, are entering a downward spiral with their SAT scores. Since 2006, SAT scores have fallen by 20 points,  dropping from 1518 to 1498 in 2012. The decrease is hitting all three portions of the test: reading, mathematics, and writing.

What could make matters worse? These changes in both the SAT test and the resulting scores are hitting minority groups the hardest. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing reports that the average score for white students has fallen by 4 points. How have the minority groups fended over the years? The average score has fallen by up to a staggering 22 points.

There is, however, one very large exception to this trend. Asian Americans have not been affected in the same manner over the years. In fact, they’ve had the opposite outcome. Since 2006, the SAT scores of Asian Americans have risen by an astounding 41 points.

Researches, such as those from collegenews.com, have tried to look at the various factors that may have contributed to this strange phenomenon. They pointed out that Asian Americans excelled particularly well in mathematics, but they believe this is due to the fact that 47% of Asian American SAT candidates took advance mathematics courses while only 31% of Latino students and 25% of Black students took similar courses. So the explanation is that study prep is the reason behind the staggering disparity?

Asianweek‘s Andrew Lam also took a look at these results and argued that a much greater factor to look at is the mentality of Asian Americans. Lam recalls a friend of his who explained to him why success was necessary. “There was no question of failure,” Lam writes. “Back home, an army of hungry, ambitious and capable young men and women were dying to take his place, and for [his friend], a boat person who barely survived his perilous journey across the South China Sea, “dying to” was no mere idiomatic expression.”

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Simply put, our circumstances have often been drastically different. Asianweek points out that it is not uncommon to find Asian parents who focus their entire life on the upward mobility of their children. They sacrifice their own well-being, work three jobs and even live in separate countries to ensure that their children get the necessary prep and education to advance in society. All of this sacrifice is done with the single goal that their children will go on to succeed and have a better life than they did.

Knowing that many of our parents struggled to benefit our education and many individuals in our homeland would ache for the opportunity, how can we not feel the often overwhelming pressure to achieve? How can we not take the extra prep classes? How can we not spend our nights studying for fear that all the sacrifice was for nothing? This pressure, which can drain us mentally and emotionally, is often what pushes us.

Yes, educational prep courses play a factor. But no, that simple explanation does not accurately show the circumstances and pressures placed upon our community. It’s much more complicated than that.

 

 

The Secret To Happiness Discovered (And Why Asians Need To Know It)

The search for happiness is no easy one. It’s a particularly hard task because many of us don’t exactly know what makes us happy in the first place.

It seems like we’re not the only ones trying to figure this one out: studies have been done to answer that very question. The results? Rather than some of the expected triggers of happiness (i.e. friends, money, food), it has been scientifically proven that one of the greatest contributors to happiness is how much gratitude you show. This is not to say that the aforementioned things do not bring happiness. Let’s not kid ourselves — food has made us all happy at one point. This study simply concludes that one’s happiness can be drastically shifted depending on the amount of gratitude shown. In other words, they may have found a way in which we can find happiness despite rough days.

Soul Pancake decided to take this theory for a test-drive. They measured the happiness level of people before and after showing gratitude. Check it out for yourself:

If such a small act impacts the emotional health of individuals, then it is especially important that the Asian American community start incorporating this into our daily lives.

In our Fall 2013 issue, we delved deep into the topic of depression and mental health among Asian American women:

Asians are arguably the most wired people in the world, and we also bear the ignoble distinction of having the highest rates of depression. According to a 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Asian American teenage girls have the highest rate of depressive symptoms of any racial, ethnic or gender group. In fact, Asian American girls and women aged 15 to 24 die from suicide at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, and suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans overall (only ninth for white Americans). It’s not just young women either; Asian American women over 65 have the highest suicide rate in that demographic. And while some studies find depressive symptoms in 35 percent of Chinese immigrants, among Southeast Asians, 71 percent meet the criteria for major affective disorders such as depression.

What causes such a high incidence of depression within our community? Is it the pressure we often face from family and society? Is it, as mentioned above, a matter of comparing ourselves to others and setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves?

Apparently, it may have a thing or two to do with race itself. Medical Daily recently released a story that studied the long term effects of racism. According to the study, there is a strong relationship between racial discrimination and depression. More importantly, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians were at the highest risk.

By enduring racism earlier on, various health issues such as “low self-esteem, reduced resilience, increased behavior problems and lower levels of wellbeing” can result.

“Children are still developing their sense of worth and belonging,” Medical Daily explains. “They internalize hateful comments more often as truths.”

Clearly, we are fighting various battles at once. With so many factors working against us, it is especially important that Asian American women look after their emotional and mental wellbeing. So why not try these methods: even the small steps — limiting time on social media and taking the time to show gratitude — may make a difference. After all, what’s there to lose?

Is Facebook Causing Depression?

Story by Anna M. Park.

You come home from work. It was a fair to middling day. Your boss didn’t yell at you, you didn’t totally cheat on your diet, and Andrew still hasn’t called. You sit down with a glass of wine, open your laptop, and start scrolling through Facebook. Brian finally tried a cronut. Jessica’s baby is growing some hair. Wow, Kris is looking really good. Tran got into that grad school? Sylvia took another vacation? Grace is engaged?!

You slam shut the laptop. Now you’re depressed.

Join the club. According to a 2013 study conducted by two German universities, one in three people felt worse and more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting Facebook. Users felt envy, loneliness and isolation, with the most common cause of Facebook frustration stemming from others’ vacation photos. The second most common cause of envy was social interaction — feeling a “lack of attention” from having fewer birthday greetings, comments and “likes” compared to friends.

And it wasn’t just college students. The study found people in their mid-30s were most likely to envy family happiness, while women were more likely to envy physical attractiveness. After all, what is Facebook but an online brag book for all to see? A 20-something colleague recently summed it up when asked why she posted so much food porn on Facebook: “To make people jealous.”

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These findings aren’t new. Scientists coined the term “Facebook depression” after a 2011 study found that teens could be negatively affected by using the social networking site too much. Another study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, by sociologists Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge, concluded that “those spending more time on Facebook each week agreed more that others were happier and had better lives.” Students who used Facebook longer also agreed less with the statement “Life is fair.” Moreover, the more Facebook “friends” a person had whom they did not know personally, the more they believed that others had better lives. And in Chou’s most recent study, she found that those with more Facebook friends cared less about their work performance, and those who frequently updated their Facebook profile liked their current job less and were more likely to think about changing jobs.

Granted, feeling unhappy is not the same thing as depression, but it could be said that Facebook may not be the best thing for an already susceptible population. After all, Asians are arguably the most wired people in the world, and we also bear the ignoble distinction of having the highest rates of depression. According to a 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Asian American teenage girls have the highest rate of depressive symptoms of any racial, ethnic or gender group. In fact, Asian American girls and women aged 15 to 24 die from suicide at a higher rate than any other racial or ethnic group, and suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans overall (only ninth for white Americans). It’s not just young women either; Asian American women over 65 have the highest suicide rate in that demographic. And while some studies find depressive symptoms in 35 percent of Chinese immigrants, among Southeast Asians, 71 percent meet the criteria for major affective disorders such as depression.

So should we get offline altogether? Many have, or at least minimize their usage; the researchers behind the German study concluded that “users frequently perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may, in the long run, endanger platform sustainability.” But you don’t have to be entirely anti-social; just do it face-to-face. In her study, Chou also found that those who spent less time on Facebook and more time socializing with friends in real life were less likely to report that they were unhappy. So get out there and really like something.

This story was originally published in our Fall 2013 issue. Get your copy here