Constance Wu’s Mental Health Comments Highlight The Taboo In Asian Communities

Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu
Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu

Crazy Rich Asians star Constance Wu has opened about how online abuse took a toll on her mental health three years ago.

The 40-year-old actor shared a lengthy Twitter statement this week in which she revealed she considered ending her life after a wave of public backlash in 2019 when she tweeted about her show, Fresh Off The Boat, being renewed for another season. At the time a fan had said it was “great news”, to which she had replied, “No it’s not”.

“I was afraid of coming back on social media because I almost lost my life from it,” Constance tweeted this week in her first Twitter post in three years.

“3 years ago, when I made careless tweets about the renewal of my TV show, it ignited outrage and internet shaming that got pretty severe. I felt awful about what I’d said, and when a few DMs from a fellow Asian actress told me I’d become a blight on the Asian American community, I started feeling like I didn’t deserve to live anymore. That I was a disgrace to AsAms, and they’d be better off without me.

“Looking back, it’s surreal that a few DMs convinced me to end my own life, but that’s what happened. Luckily, a friend found me and rushed me to the ER.”

The movie star went on to explain that she then took time out to focus on her mental health – something Asian Americans don’t talk about enough.

“While we’re quick to celebrate representation wins, there’s a lot of avoidance around the more uncomfortable issues within our community,” she wrote.

It’s part of the reason she wrote her book, Making A Scene, and chose to now speak up about this in the hope of ensuring others in the community don’t feel alone and know they can reach out for help.

Seeing Constance’s statement reminded me about an article I wrote in March last year, titled: “Meghan Markle’s mental health comments draw attention to a major issue in many communities like mine”.

Ultimately, Constance’s comments this week referencing Asian Americans struggling to speak openly about mental health reminded me of the similar battle many of us in culturally diverse communities face.

I’ll leave with you an excerpt of what I wrote in March 2021:

Mustering up the willingness or courage to ask for help in these dire situations is often as excruciatingly painful as the depression that has already consumed our lives.

I know this because I’ve seen how taxing and traumatic it’s been for some around me to say, ‘Hey, I actually need help and can you help me get some?” I’ve also had to acknowledge my own need for help over the past few years, and once I started getting it quickly realised that paying for therapy has been a more worthwhile use of my money than a splurge on a new dress and shoes.

But how do we get here? How do more of us as South Asian women get to the point where we feel comfortable to ask for help? Our culture is known to sweep mental health issues under the rug or label them as taboo. I’ve even heard the line from elders in our community that depression “didn’t exist back in our day” and that “you youngsters are soft”.

While Meghan Markle is not South Asian, she represents women of colour facing a system that shuns vulnerability and deems depression and anxiety as nothing more than a curse or an illusion. In order for more of us to find the courage to ask for help, cultural perspectives of mental health issues need to critically change.

Meghan Markle’s statements form the unwanted but crucial words the older generations need to hear. Aunties and uncles, it’s time to let your children know that mental ill-health is real, and that asking for help is no betrayal of the family’s name.  

If you or someone you know needs support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14

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