Mental health is hard to talk about, especially in Asia. Although attitudes are slowly changing, many people still remember a time when the subject was taboo. In many Asian societies still, getting treated for mental health is considered a personal failure and something to be ashamed about.
For our featured hunk today, Alan Sang, 26, struggling with mental health was something he experienced growing up as a gay man in New Jersey in the United States. Having worked through his issues, he said, he is now much more aware of the need to discuss the subject of mental health openly – especially among gay men.
“Having suffered from mental health issues when I was younger, and having worked through them, I feel I have gained a better appreciation for the subject and am more aware of the need to destigmatize it,” he said.
Now in school to become a medical doctor, Alan said he is keen to pursue psychiatry as one of his areas of specialisation. In fact, he chose the subject of mental health as one of his recent research projects, because he wanted to “make it personal,” he said.
His research paper was on the effects of television on LGBTQ+ mental health, and LGBTQ mental health in general.
“Media in all different forms plays a role in how people view the world and themselves, and everyone can relate to it. TV shows in particular are fun to analyze and there are a lot of interesting shows out there. Apart from making the research more personal, I wanted to focus on LGBT shows and mental health to raise awareness of issues present in LGBT populations.”
Here’s my interview with Alan. Hope you enjoy!
Thanks so much for joining us on our website, Alan. Can you tell us more about your research paper on the LGBTQ community and mental health?
Sure! The paper is on the effects of LGBTQ+ television shows on self-identity and mental health within young adult LGBTQ+ populations. In addition to exploring the negative effects that the lack of racially diverse LGBTQ+ representation in media has on LGTBQ+ individuals, I delved into many of the mental health disparities that exist among racial groups within the LGBTQ+ community.
That’s so interesting! What were some of the significant findings you found with regards to race and ethnicity?
There were many interesting findings when looking at race and ethnicity. One is that gay youths of colour – which include Asians – have higher rates of suicidal ideation, planning and attempts, and attempts treated by a health care professional compared to gay White youths.
Another is that alcohol use among gay men of colour is associated with previous experiences of racism and sexual objectification, and is greater than that seen in gay White men. Also, it has been shown that gay Black men face the most racial-ethnic stigma in LGBTQ+ spaces while White sexual minority men experience the least, with Asian and Hispanic-Latino men in between.
Can you tell us more about what you found with regards to gay Asian men, and more broadly the LGBTQ Asian community?
LGBTQ+ Asian Americans encounter intersectional stress and trauma created from cultural norms and stigma, interpersonal discrimination, internalised minority stress, and maladaptive coping and poor social support. All of that contributes to negative mental and sexual health outcomes in LGBTQ+ Asian Americans.
What were some of the interesting findings from your Instagram survey?
Another interesting finding is that LGBTQ+ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder compared to heterosexual individuals.
Although more LGBTQ+ White respondents had symptoms compared to LGBTQ+ non-White respondents, more LGBTQ+ non-White respondents were diagnosed compared to LGBTQ+ White respondents. The most popular disorders being Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Ok, last question! I heard you used to be a competitive swimmer! Is that how you got your physique and what are you doing these days to keep fit? Can you talk a little bit about how keeping fit helps with mental health?
I feel growing up swimming and then swimming competitively did build a good foundation in terms of health and physique. I grew up playing a lot of sports but nowadays, I mostly do cardio or lift to stay fit. Working out is a great way to help with mental health. It can help with anxiety and depression, build self-esteem, and thinking.
Curious to see more of Alan? Follow his Instagram @serpens9.
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