Asian Pacific American Heritage month speaker discusses mental health


Keynote speaker JR Kuo, a renowned motivational speaker, educates students on common signs of mental health March 20 at the Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium at Charles V. Park Library. Chao spoke at the event as part of Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

JR Kuo, a motivational speaker focused on mental health from the University of Colorado, spoke to Central Michigan University students about managing mental health March 20.

He was hosted by the Asian Cultural Organization and his presentation was the keynote speech for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Kuo immigrated to the United States from Taiwan as a child, knowing no English at the time. His parents wanted a better life for him than they had as children and were very strict and traditional. 

He remembered not being able to watch TV, movies or listen to music.

"Everything that was fun was labeled bad," he said. "The impact of this was that when I was in college, if I decided to take a night off I would feel extremely guilty. Growing up the biggest struggle that I had was that I wanted to make my mom proud, but on the other hand I just wanted to enjoy my childhood.”

Kuo said mental health is typically not discussed in Asian countries. 

"When it came to mental health, there was no such thing," he said.

He also discussed how ignoring mental health issues will only make the problems worse. Some of the repercussions of ignoring mental health issues include passive aggressiveness, he said.

Mental health issues are on the rise among college students, he said.

“There is no health without mental health," JR Kuo said. “A lot of times we only consider the negative emotions as mental health, which is so not true. Mental health is our wellness.”

Kuo also discussed the ways students can work on their own mental health by talking with counselors at CMU’s counseling center, opening up to friends and becoming more involved on campus.

Brazil freshman Caroline Carneiro came to the event on the recommendation of one of her professors, but enjoyed the honest discussions about mental health. 

“It’s good we talk about the mental issues that we have," she said. "A lot of people in our generation have a lot of problems, so it’s good that we take a break and talk about it.”

Chicago senior Julio Velasco also appreciated the honest discussion because he feels mental health is important.

"It’s something that’s not really talked about in my community," he said.

Kuo ended his presentation with a call-to-action to normalize discussions of mental health. 

He went over some exercises students can use on their own to check in with their mental health. For example, he taught students to remind themselves of what they are thankful for in their life when they get stressed, and to close their eyes and count their breathes. 

“Be the friend that you want to have when you are in distress," he said. “I see a future where we talk about mental health the way we talk about sports, so keep the conversation going.”