How one organization connects mental health with mentorship for AAPI youth

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ByCeFaan Kim via WABC logo
Saturday, May 21, 2022
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Miki Li, 16, was born and raised in Chinatown - it is home, yet she avoids stepping outside.

CHINATOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Despite some stereotypes that all Asian students breeze through school easily, they can face the same challenges as any other group, including dealing with anxiety over trying to be perfect.

Miki Lin, 16, was born and raised in Chinatown - it is home, yet she avoids stepping outside.

"Whenever I go outside, it's just like this feeling of despair. I see just a whole bunch of people, a whole bunch of cars. Don't know what's going to happen," said Lin.

She is trapped in her apartment at the mercy of her anxiety.

"My family, they don't really understand mental health and they dismissed it. For me, it's a thing that annoys my family. It's a thing that burdens my family when I get anxiety attacks," Lin added.

Lin also comes from humble beginnings.

"I recently learned Applebees is apparently not fancy," she says, "I had memories of going to the sweatshop with my mom."

Lin is far from alone. There are more than 180,000 AAPI students in New York City public schools. According to the mayor's office, more than 21 percent of them are living in poverty. That is more than one out of five. Almost half of them live in homes with adults who don't speak proficient English.

The leading cause of death among AAPI adolescents ages 5-19 is suicide.

"I think the myth of model minorities is causing lots of problems for our youth. So if they don't get into a specialized high school, that's a failure. If they don't get into a prestigious college - that's a failure," said Ivy Li, Associate Director of Mental Health for Apex For Youth.

Apex For Youth is an organization that connects mental health and mentorship to support AAPI youth.

Li says the model minority myth makes teens like Miki Lin question their sense of value.

However, with the support of Apex for Youth, the teen found a mentor and a friend.

"She's built a lot of confidence in how she speaks about her self - almost like a little leader where she'll help start the conversation if no one is raising their hand to speak," said Eileen Jen.

"In Apex they don't see me as doing anything wrong when I'm nervous, when I have some issues - it feels like family," said Lin.

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