Resilience Project | Session 2 Recap

Resilience Project Workshop – Session 2 Recap by Kathy Tran and Kevin Nguyen

Project Vietnam Foundation held a informational workshop on the topic of bullying this past Saturday at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital. Many curious youths came to learn more about mental health awareness and how to reduce overwhelming emotions that a student may encounter in their day-to-day life during the second session of Project Resilience. With the help of Dr. Thanh Tam Nguyen and Dr. Quynh Kieu, there are ways to combat the negative aspects in life. Their bright personalities surely warmed up the atmosphere of the room!

The participants were shy at first however, introductions allowed them to become accustomed to the people around them. Students, from grades ranging from freshmans in high schools to incoming college students, each gave a reason as to why they were compelled to take part of Saturday’s workshop. To find peace within oneself and the individuals of their environment, some answered. Dr. Thanh Tam Nguyen gave a preface on bullying and its detrimental effects on an individual. She then began to dive into the functions of the components in the brain. It gave more insight as to how our body reacts to certain situations. During the climax of our rollercoaster of emotions, it is advised to control our breathing. The more we breathe using our stomach, the faster we can calm down our brain to avoid outbursts of anger and resentment. In focusing on our breathing to calm our body down, the calm and steady pace puts our parasympathetic nervous system into drive in which our heart rate slows down, pupils constrict, and digestion speeds up. The adrenaline from the fight or flight response from the sympathetic nervous system’s stressful event slowly drains away as we are once again able to regain control of who we are. Our emotions get calmer, our body systems start returning back to normal, slowly, we return back to who we were before the stressful event. It is a calming method that, recommended by both Dr. Thanh Tam Nguyen and Social Worker Mai Khanh Le, put us all in a more rested and serene mood.

After a few minutes of meditating, a video narrated by a victim of bullying drew everyone’s attention. The raw emotions poured out from his story seemed relatable to some students as they watched. Followed by a period of reflection, the students were separated into four random groups to make a skit that all included some type of verbal harassment. It was amazing to see everyone come up with a scenario in ten minutes and act everything out. Each group was significant in their own way. One group touched on cyber bullying which is one of the most common types of bullying in this day and age. With the frequent use of our phones and social media, individuals are more likely to be attacked online rather than in real life. The three other groups both focused on bullying within an educational setting. The underlying causes of bullying are peers and social conformity. In order to fit in a specific clique, students tend to pick on others as a way of saying they are more dominant. We may only focus on school-related bullying, however, anyone can become a victim of harassment.

This session consisted of a presentation by the students themselves. High school students Katelynn Tran from La Quinta High School and Kevin Nguyen from Pacifica High School gave a thorough explanation on the long term detrimental effects of bullying. Find out more about it here: https://brightfutures.projectvietnam.org/2018/07/24/where-has-treating-the-bullies-gone-wrong/

Although these students came from different schools, different families, and different aspects of life, they share the purpose of serving the community and finding ways to improve society. To end bullying, to end depression, these students attended this session as a way to aid in slowing down or stopping the rates of mental illness that can lead to suicide. And because they showed up, they are Not-I: the core focus group that advocates for the awareness of mental health within the communities around the OC area. Step by step, workshop by workshop, they will all get there. Bringing awareness of the mental health issues that plague society, Not-I will lead Orange County into learning how to reduce the rates of teenage suicide and deal with the mental health issues that many may face in the coming future.

Video Discussion about “To This Day Project” by Shane Koyczan

Where Has Treating the Bullies Gone Wrong?

Presentation by Kevin Nguyen and Katelynn Tran

Bullying. We all see it. We all experience it. But many of us do not do much about it. The thought of taking a stand against the person or group of people hurting us may be an intimidating action but if we let it persist, who knows what will happen to many who get bullied today.

Depression and anxiety. The leading causes of teenage suicide. Bullying today is not an issue of whether one should or not fight back and tell the teacher but rather, it is one in which can only lead to a terrible ending if not dealt with correctly. Yes, although many can come to an adult for bullying, if one thinks about it, does anything really happen?

The issue at hand with bullying today is that it is being addressed incorrectly. Usually, the targets of bullying are told to just accept it because it is a part of growing up while the bully is just met with a minor punishment and told not to do it again.

First off, for an adult to disregard a child’s problems will almost definitely install within them a sense of worthlessness. They are told that the bad things happening to them are just a normal part of life but does their parents really know the substantial effects that it has on the developing child’s mind? Yes, although many parents have gone through bullying throughout their adolescent years, the idea of bullying has shifted dramatically. Back then, there was only one form of bullying: confrontational bullying where the bully would intimidate and/or scare the target right in front of them. The target of bullying knows clearly who the person bullying them is and can actually do something about it whereas nowadays, the field of bullying has expanded vastly with the introduction of the internet.

Cyberbullying. A new form of bullying that has hit the recent decade where a person now no longer has to be physically present  to bully someone. If one comes to think about it, bullying can be seen as a sport where the “superiors” pick on those who are inferior, those who are different, those who are lacking. The field of bullying has now expanded beyond what was once there. Instead of having to face the person that one is causing harm to, with the increasing accessibility of technology, they can enter the online world anonymously and discredit and dehumanize those who they want to bully. Not only that but this time, the playing field has grown tremendously. Whereas in the past, bullying situations would only be school or community wide, now, with the easy access to technology, the effects of bullying can be seen everywhere. A person who insults and demoralizes a victim here can be aided by those in another country all across the world. With the easy access of the internet, bullying can now reach new heights as more and more people can come in and attack the victim. The numbers of bullies and bystanders have grown tremendously with the introduction of technology when the number of targets of bullying stays the same.

Punishments. Whenever a person is met with bullying issues, they are usually encouraged to go and tell an adult. They are told to find help in an older person so that the bully stops targeting them. But as depicted in many Hollywood movies, and even in real life, the outcome is usually less than expected. In fact, it is the opposite of what the victim wanted. Although the bully will get “punished” for bullying, it will only drive that child to obtain more vengeance and power over the child that told on them. Simply punishing a child for bullying another kid is not always the case towards stopping this behavior altogether. Yes, although punishments do discourage people from doing unattractive actions, punishing a kid for bullying will not address the root cause of bullying. Many adults do not take the time out to find out what is going on with the bully and instead, take the easier route of fixing the problem on the surface and then letting the child go without having him learn anything.

The field for bullying has expanded vastly. So for an adult to say that bullying is a natural part of life is misinformed about the latest effects that it has on children because more and more victims of bullying are falling further and further into depressions and anxiety. Rather, to solve the problem of bullying, one should place a bully, the victim, and a few students in a room together, with an adult for supervision, to encourage discussion between the multiple parties as to why it is they do what they do. To create conversation, to create support, to create understanding. Placing them in a group will allow for everyone to understand both themselves and others on a deeper level. Not only will it help the victim confront the bully but it may even help them understand the actions of the bully themselves in which they may be able to help. It is time to change what many see as the issue of bullying and lets focus on fixing this idea of dealing with bullying!

The Asian Curfew

Restricted by Curfew! Asian Curfew!! 

by Maikhanh Tran

I know many people can relate to having a curfew, but my dad takes it to another level. Growing up in an Asian household and being an only child, my dad has always been super strict and traditional. Even though my mom is my best friend and is always on my side, whenever I mention staying out late, she would say the default, “ask your dad”. Although I don’t have a set curfew, my dad expects me to be home around 10 pm, otherwise I can prepare to walk into my house to a frowning face, followed by a lecture for the next 2 hours.

In high school, there were many times when I got in trouble for coming home around 11:30 pm, which isn’t even late considering many other kids have later or no curfew. I’ve even gotten yelled at for staying out with my own cousins, so could you imagine how my dad reacted when I was with my friends? He always called me around 9:30 pm and asked where I was. These calls would continue multiple times throughout the hour, and I would pick them up depending on how brave I felt that night.  

The lectures were so intense and it would result in both my dad and I yelling back and forth at each other, and I would end up in tears out of frustration. He didn’t understand. I told him that it was ridiculous and that it got to the point where I was scared to go home late by a few minutes out of fear that he would act out. I have to include that my dad drinks a lot, which also escalates the whole situation because I am talking to someone who is drunk and cannot really comprehend what I’m saying clearly. I always reminded my dad that I am a good student and it’s only fair that I get to spend time with my friends now and then to keep my own sanity. He responded by saying that he trusts me and that I can have fun, but there should be a limit. Whatever can be done during the day, should be done during daytime hours instead of at night.

I hoped that as a college student, my dad wouldn’t expect me to be home at a certain time anymore. He has gotten less strict throughout the years, but he still calls me around a certain time and asks when I’ll be going home. As a 23 year old, I am embarrassed to tell new friends that I have to leave hangouts early due to my curfew. All my other friends have learned to work around my schedule and only make plans with me during the day. Even my cousins younger than me could stay out until 3 or 4 am. Their parents aren’t as traditional as mine and all they ask is to know where my cousins are and what time they’ll be coming home. Why can’t my dad be as understanding? It really starts with how parents handle the situation and that they are open to changing more traditional ways so that their children feel comfortable in talking to them about anything. Having strict parents often leads to sneaky kids, and many of them might not have dealt with having a curfew the same way as I did and might have rebelled back.

I do understand his perspective as an Asian parent. My dad is extremely overprotective and thinks it’s dangerous for a girl to be out late. I know he just wants to make sure I’m safe, but he also needs to trust that I’m old enough to be looking out for myself. Even now, I am still trying to figure out how to talk to my dad about extending the curfew or not having one at all anymore.

Getting Involved in Resilience Project

Getting Involved in Resilience Project

by Vivan LeDuc | UC Berkley Student

When I was growing up, writing became my only solace during times of struggle. When the pressure of being the perfect student—perfect child—proved too much to handle, there was nothing that a pen, paper, and willing mind couldn’t fix.  All obstacles considered, I was still one of the lucky ones—I had a healthy of coping. We all know that others are not as fortunate to possess ways to cultivate mental wellness.

This is primarily why getting involved within the community, with projects such as Project Resilience, is beneficial and necessary for the well being of not only our communities, but ourselves as well. In addition to gaining significant team-building strategies, we will also learn to recognize the signs of mental illness and be given the adequate tools to project our inner strength. It is not until we are actively involved that we can learn to help ourselves.

And it is not until we learn how to help ourselves that we can learn to help those whom we love.

 

Struggles of Being a Teenager

Struggles of being a teenager

by Hallie Huang

 

A teenager is a part of life that everyone goes through but while some face it with no problems, others face many difficulties.

In today’s generation, teens are facing issues that no previous generation has ever faced. With the emergence of technology and its constant advances, it has brought about new issues and has also built upon some of the struggles.

Depression is one of the most common issues that teens face. Studies has shown that 3.1 million adolescents in the United States has had at least one major depressive episode, representing 12.8% of the U.S. population. One of the causes has been technology. When technology started to come into play, teens became more absorbed with their smartphones and social media and spent less time face-to-face. As a result, their psychological well-being started to plummet and also lost connections with those around them. Not only that but social media has set the standards for posts where many would compare themselves to others and feel pressured to uphold perfection. Additionally, high school has also played a major role in teen’s depression. Upon entering high school, students are burdened with the expectations that they must pass their classes and get into college or else they will become jobless. However, the competition for getting into certain colleges has intensified and now in order to have a good chance to get in, one must load up on APs, honors, and extracurriculars. Students must then bear the great deal of pressure which is unfortunately a normal part of the process of being teenager.

Everyday there are teens who are terrified to go to school with the thought that they may be bullied again. Bullying is a major problem in school which involves physical, verbal, emotional, and cyber bullying. When entering school, many students are often bullied because they’re different, whether it may be because of their race, sexuality, religion, disability, weight, height, or intelligence. Thus, many are forced to conform to social norms and give into peer pressure to avoid being bullied while at the same time leaving their sense of individuality and identity.  Physical bullying is more common among boys whereas teenage girls often favor verbal and emotional bullying. Now that technology has become such a big part in teen’s lives, it has increased the use of cyber bullying through instant messaging and social media to humiliate and embarrass others.

Drug and alcohol use has also become a rising issue among high schoolers. Many teens start to do drugs due to curiosity, peer pressure, stress, emotional struggles, or a desire to escape. Many teens underestimate how easy it is to develop an addiction and do not understand the risks associated with overdosing. Hence that is how teens become vulnerable to trying it because their curiosity gets the best of them and desire to try something new and risky, so they are more likely to experiment and go beyond their boundaries. Plus, many are faced with the offer to try drugs and alcohol by their peers since it is “cool”, causing them to give into peer pressure. Also, drugs are known to help provide relief from stress. During high school, many students reach a point where they are constantly overwhelmed by stress, so they desire to escape that feeling of stress by taking drugs for a moment of relief.

Thus, being a teenager is a part of life that everyone goes through but while some face it with no problems, others face many difficulties. It is important for parents, guardians and teachers to be aware of what issues teens may be going through so that they can help and try to resolve the problem. As for those teens who are struggling, they should not be afraid to reach out to others for help and they should also realize that while difficult times are a part of life, once they learn how to hope with it, life will get better.

 

The Negative Effects of Media

How Media Effects “ME” as a Teenager….

by Katelynn Tran

Media plays a big role in the generational gap between teenagers and their parents. This advancement in technology is undeniably useful and beneficial at times, but it is also the stem of many problems that young teens face today.

As a teenager, I often find myself struggling to fulfill the standards that have been set by the media today. It dictates many aspects of my life, such as what I should wear, what I should eat, what I should do. I look through Instagram and other social networking applications every day, double tapping and commenting generic stuff on generic posts, as if it is part of my daily schedule. I find myself wanting to look like the other girls on Instagram who everyone just adores. The standard of beauty is a byproduct of media. It spreads the misconception that there is an acceptable look a girl should portray.

Parents do not understand that impulsion. They baffle at our need to fit in. My parents often ask, “Why are you making life out to be harder than it actually is? You have one job – to do well in school. You don’t need to look good for other people. You just need to look good for yourself. Who cares if every girl in school has bleached hair, acrylics, and a vape pen? You’ll ruin your hair, you’ll ruin your nails, and you’ll ruin your life. These people you so dearly look up to will become nobodies in the future, and you won’t even remember their names. So why are you trying so hard to be like them?”

Their logic makes perfect sense. It is, without a doubt, reasonable and correct, but our parents can’t speak from personal experience. When they were in high school, social media hadn’t even existed yet. They do not understand the pressures of fulfilling beauty standards and succumbing to peer pressure. People often say online that “different is beautiful,” yet that’s hard to believe when so many teens suffer from body image.

I went through a tough time once, and it lead me to gain a lot of weight. Prior to gaining weight, I was 90 pounds, but I gained 25 pounds in a matter of two months. I became more self-conscious, as more and more people were commenting on my weight gain. I didn’t have the same confidence as my friends on my feed, and it put me in a bad place. My parents told me to exercise if I wasn’t content with my body, but I didn’t want to exercise. I didn’t want to do anything. They were frustrated, because it seemed like I wasn’t making an effort to solve my own problems. I was frustrated at myself too.

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian were posting pictures with limited clothing, and I wanted to feel that same confidence as well. I started skipping meals and acting out, blatantly endangering my health. After a while, I was able to lose the weight that I had gained, but I was never fully content with how I looked. I had already lost so much confidence, and I was still insecure.

With all the beauty standards and judgment out there, I think the most important thing is to have people who will love you unconditionally. It seems like “learning to love yourself” is the moral of the story, but it’s a lot harder said than done. It’s easy to tell people who are struggling from body image issues that they’re beautiful, but it’s hard to get them to acknowledge that as the truth. The first step in that direction is having support from the people they know and love.

The Pressure of Being Asian

The Pressure of Being Asian

by Katelynn Tran

When a baby in the family turns one, my family holds a “choosing ceremony” in which the child chooses an item from an assortment of objects that symbolize a career path for the child’s future. For example, a stethoscope would indicate a doctor, a bottle of pills would indicate a pharmacist, a book would represent a lawyer, and so on. Asian adults like to believe this ceremony is entirely objective, but it isn’t quite so. They place items that indicate a medical profession closest to the child while other less traditional professions are placed farther away. From a young age, we are taught to adopt these beliefs that the only acceptable route is the traditional route – either medical school or law school. Anything under a 95 is failure.

It is not uncommon for Asian parents to compare their children to other people. “Why did you only get a 4.0? Why didn’t you get a 4.6 like your cousin?” Sometimes, they will even compare their kids to themselves. “When I was your age, I was working 2 jobs while living in my car. You have all the opportunities to succeed, so why can’t you do better?” They seem to think that this constant belittling will push their child to be better than they already are, but I think this is a form of emotional abuse, which fosters so many problem that Asian kids face today. Asian kids are used to being belittled for their failures, yet they never receive praise for their successes. Why should you be praised for doing something that is expected of you?

The stereotypes about how Asians are geniuses at math don’t help ease the pressure either. I hate math. I suck at it, and I do not understand how this stereotype was even created. My parents studied math in Vietnam where they were forced to undergo hours of practice since Vietnam has such a strict work ethic. Whenever I ask my parents for help, they do not understand how I cannot understand such a simple topic. They get upset that I am struggling with something that was so easy for them. By asking them for help, I only make myself appear dumb and incapable. Yet, when my parents need help with technology, I don’t give them trouble for it. Unlike them, I can understand that new topics might be overwhelming, and I don’t make them feel inferior for not understanding something that I know so well. Asian parents don’t share that same mindset.

I attend one of the most predominantly Asian schools in Orange County, with Asians composing over 80% of the student body. There is constant competition amongst each other to be better than one another. Our parents have indoctrinated us with the belief that we have to be the best, no exceptions. It is not unusual for parents to force their kids to go to tutoring after school on the weekdays, and SAT prep class on the weekends. Students engaged in extracurricular sometimes don’t leave school until 9 PM, and they stay up until 3 AM doing homework, leaving only 4 hours to sleep each night. That’s half the recommended amount of sleep a student should get in order to thrive in school. But it’s all cool as long as we have straight A’s, right?

I do not have a single doubt in my body that my parents just want me to succeed in life and get everything they never could. Asian parents want the best for their children, as all parents to. However, their method of ensuring the success of their children is questionable. My purpose is not to rant about how parents should lay off the judgment and become more understanding toward their children. I just hope Asian parents would be more aware of the consequences of their constant belittlement and pressure on their children. In order to break this cultural barrier,  better communication must be established so that both parties would be much more content. Asian parents sometimes seem to forget that the most important thing in life isn’t wealth – it’s happiness.

 

Focus Group Experience by Katelynn Tran

Focus Group Experience by Katelynn Tran

Last Saturday, June 30th, I participated in a focus group, where we covered the basis of Project Resilience and its purpose of raising awareness for mental health. When I first got there, I was surprised to see so many people around my age, some of whom I actually already knew, who also shared my interest in helping others. We introduced ourselves in a circle and shared a few jokes, which was fun since I could relate to them as they were of my age. Then, Dr. Kieu introduced herself and began expanding on the issue of mental health. She covered the statistics on mental health, many of which were very shocking. I was surprised to hear that Orange County has the highest increased rate of suicide, especially in teenagers. As a teenager myself, this fact made me sorrowful. I believed that this issue could have been prevented if family and friends had known how to identify the issues and help those who were struggling. As we delved more into the issue and watched videos about the seriousness of mental health, I felt that I wanted to become more involved in this project and try to make a difference.

Afterwards, we got into small groups to go over a few discussion questions. In the beginning, it was slightly awkward, because nobody wanted to start the conversation, but as time went on, there was better participation. We discussed the issues we see in our community and how we deal with those issues. Many of the groups said that stress from academics, family problems, and unhappiness overall is the origin of depression. Another major issue is the ignorance of teenagers who take depression lightly and crack jokes about suicide, often saying how they want to kill themselves or telling others to kill themselves. As teenagers, we do not know how to communicate with others about our stress, as we view it as a regular aspect of our lives and we fear being called “overdramatic” or “crazy”.  I find it very difficult to talk to my parents about my feelings, because they do not understand why I would “complain” when I have so many opportunities in this land that they did not. They laugh and start comparing my problems to their problems of immigrating towards a new land, not knowing English, being so broke they could not even afford a bowl of soup, and having to save up as a family to buy one small computer. Whenever they talk about their issues, I feel guilty for not being better when I have been given so many opportunities to succeed.

However, there are issues today that were not so prominent back then. Competitiveness and peer pressure have become much more apparent, but parents do not seem to understand the extent of the issue. Through the focus group, I believe that the key to preventing mental health problems is communication between both families and friends. The public needs to be aware of how to talk to those who are struggling in order to help them through it. Whenever my friends come to me with their problems, I just repeat empty phrases like “it’s okay” or “feel better”, but I want to be able to actually help them feel better. If we draw awareness to the necessity of communication, I believe it would greatly relieve the stress of those who are struggling.