Asian Americans and Suicide: To Identify or Not to Identify?

On Saturday morning, I stumbled upon a widely circulating New York Times news analysis called “Push, Don’t Crush, the Students.” In this piece, Matt Richtel discussed the three suicides of students in the Palo Alto Unified School District this year and whether the culture of hyperachievement in the city – home of Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley, one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country – was a contributing factor in these deaths. As someone who’s spent a lot of time thinking and writing about cultures of achievement and their consequences, I appreciated the article; I found Richtel’s research thorough and enlightening, and his exploration of the mixed messages parents and administrators send to students was compelling. The themes were all familiar to me, though, so when I finished the piece, I sighed, closed my browser, and went about my day.

That afternoon, I worked at a coffee shop alongside a friend of mine who lives in Palo Alto. Out of the blue, he mentioned the suicides – and that all three of these students were Asian American.

I felt as though I had been punched in the gut. Nowhere in his piece had Richtel mentioned this critical piece of information.

Continue reading on the Salt Collective

4 thoughts on “Asian Americans and Suicide: To Identify or Not to Identify?

  1. Liz, this is such a good, sensitive piece. When I was a news reporter, we wondered all the time about what identifying information should be highlighted and/or included in the story. Especially, when the information is part of the headline, and especially when the information calls attention to an ethnic identity or a specific profession. If handled badly, it looks like the reporter is drawing some conclusions for the reader. If handled well, the story is giving useful information, as you pointed out so well.

  2. Thank you, Bonnie — your words mean a lot to me. And I really appreciate your insights as someone who’s had to wrestle with how to present this kind of information.

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