skip navigation
Support KUOW

Seattle Exhibit Shines Light On Suicide

Ruby de Luna

Suicide is something that people are often afraid to talk about, and in some cultures it's a taboo subject. A new exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle hopes to bring the unspeakable out in the open. KUOW's Ruby de Luna reports.


The exhibit is called "Inside/Out." The idea is to put a spotlight on a problem: young women of Asian Pacific Island descent have higher suicide rates than any other segment of the population. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and different academic studies support that.

Leanalynn Aguila counsels young girls who struggle with depression and other mental health issues at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service in Seattle. It's not clear why Asian Pacific girls contemplate suicide, but Aguila says there are some cultural explanations. It starts with pressure to be perfect.

Aguila: "Family, in particular, different expectations from their parents to excel in school and just be the perfect girl and also the perfect daughter at home."

Aguila says many Asian and Pacific Island girls find it difficult to talk about their emotions, especially with their parents. There's also a stigma attached to mental illness, and that prevents young adults from getting help. So issues like depression or suicide are not talked about because they're seen as bringing shame to the family.

Aguila: "So it's not just about you — the person, the individual — it reflects your family. Like, oh, their family must have problems; you're not supposed to have problems. Everything is supposed to be perfect and fine, but when it's not, it's not talked about."

Organizers of the exhibit hope to provide a safe place for people to talk about suicide and resources in the community.

There are photos from some of the teens that Aguila has counseled. They are snapshots of the girls' lives, pictures of people or things that represented sadness, hope, and strength.

"Inside/Out" opens tomorrow, and will run through mid–November.

I'm Ruby de Luna, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW