Filipino Mental Health Initiative Dispels the Model Minority Myth

In mainstream media, Asian Pacific Islander communities are usually depicted as hard-working, immigrant, “model minorities” who exemplify the Horatio Alger archetype that you can become successful through blood, sweat, tears, and dedication. But such an image, while positive, is still a stereotype and can minimize and ignore the real struggles behind cookie-cutter images of happy families. Like the happy white suburban family depicted in the movie, “American Beauty”, API families and individuals may also have a façade of perfection with their maxims of “I have to study hard/work hard/go to school/be successful” and “I have to put others’ needs before my own.” However, these family members may individually face stressors – parents/caregivers who work more than 40 hours a week to take care of their children and elder parents, and teenagers who may develop anxiety and depression from the pressure to excel and fear of failure.

In this three-minute video created by the Filipino Mental Health Initiative (FMHI), participants wanted to show some underlying realities behind the veneer of the model minority image. Their aim is to give voice to the silent suffering that can happen behind these closed doors. They aim to say, “Let us hone those strengths of hard work and dedication to be successful – but in terms of our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.”

The family depicted in this video are not professional actors, and are not an actual family. They are community volunteers who are familiar with depression, whether they have experienced it themselves, or have a loved one who has experienced it. This video is the brainchild of FMHI member, Christi Morales, whose production team consists of Christi and her two siblings, Vivian and Victor Morales. This video was created to normalize depression and mental illness, how it affects multiple generations of Filipino-American families. We hope that this video will educate viewers, create dialogue, spread awareness, and help end the stigma of mental health in the Filipino community.

Click here for more information about FMHI.