Active Minds Blog » Emerging Scholars Fellowship Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Applying to Graduate School (PhD) in Psychology Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 Cai is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Cai and his fellow scholars here.

Hello everyone! This is my final post for the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. As someone who just went through the entire process of applying to graduate school in Psychology, I think I should conclude my blogging with an article detailing my experience and what I learned in the process.

1. What type of program should I apply to?

This is a very important question, because different types of graduate programs have very different focuses. Many people think they should pursue a PhD because the “doctor” title seems like a crown. However, PhDs are suitable for only a handful of people because of both the commitment and effort they require and the relatively limited career paths they typically lead to.

Put simply, if conducting scientific research is something you enjoy, and entering academia is something you want for your future, you should absolutely pursue a PhD. However, if you want to be a therapist without too much pressure to do research, you should consider PsyD programs. There are also other master’s programs that are more applied and suitable for those who want to be social workers, school counselors, and HR consultants. However, it should be noted that many schools do not offer terminal master’s or PsyD degrees.

  1. What am I really interested in?

This is the very first question you will ask after or along with the “what program” question, but also one that you will contemplate upon for your entire life. Yes, you will be asking yourself this question throughout your life, but in the case of applying to graduate school, you do not need to crystalize a grand life-long project. However, you do need to figure out the big question that you think you will happily commit your next 5 years to, at least for now.

It took me a long journey to find it out. After I tried different classes and research opportunities, I was lucky enough to realize that the big questions in cognitive development, such as the relation between language and thought, were exactly what fascinated me. Therefore, if you don’t know what you are most interested in, step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself by trying things that you are not familiar with. You will be surprised by how many wonderful things there are that you have never imagined before.

FYI, if you want to study social psychology, I will quote a piece of advice that I consider the best I have ever received –

“Think about what makes your angry and what wakes you up at night.”

  1. How to prepare?

First, you need to realize that applying to top PhD programs in psychology is extremely hard, even harder if you want to study clinical psychology. For example, the Psychology PhD program at Stanford normally accepts only 3% of its applicants. Because of the competitiveness of admissions to PhD programs and the rigor of PhD-level work, successful applicants normally have excellent GPAs, GRE scores, and more importantly, solid research experience, letters of recommendations, and some insights into the unanswered questions in the relevant fields.

Unlike many professional schools, PhD programs use GPAs and GRE scores as cut-offs to minimize the applicant pool. Although programs do look at applications with low scores but high research credentials, most applications with low scores will not pass the initial screening because there are just so many applications.

Also, keep in mind that high scores are necessary, but they are not a guarantee. After the initial screening, what would really make you stand out are 1) the statement of purpose that outlines your solid research experience and skills and demonstrates your understanding of the questions you want to investigate, and 2) your letters of recommendation that speak to your work ethic, research abilities and potentials, critical and independent thinking, and interpersonal capacities.

Therefore, the key is to have as much research experience as possible to improve your practical research skills, build your relationships with your professors (it is very important to have professors who know you well in research settings to write you letters of recommendations), and refine your understanding of the subject matter. Normally, you should do so by seeking on-campus and summer research assistant opportunities and conducting your own research projects as independent studies or honor’s thesis projects (being selected as an Emerging Scholar in Active Minds will say a lot about how capable you are as a scholar).

  1. Interviews

Most programs invite a selected group of applicants to on-campus interviews. Most interviews are not intimidating and are intended to be platforms for professors and applicants to get to know each other better. They will ask you general questions about your research interests and future plans to get a better sense of who you are, confirm that your interests indeed align with theirs, and make sure you really understand your goals. You should also keep your answers consistent across your interviews with different faculty because they will talk and make the decision as a group. Inconsistent answers will induce suspicion about your intention and whether you really know what you want to do.

Remember that not only are professors interviewing you but you are interviewing them as well. You should take this opportunity to ask them questions about their work and the program to evaluate whether this is really the place for you. You should also ask other graduate students about their experiences, and most people would be fairly honest.

By the way, pay attention to how you interact with other graduate students, because faculty will ask them about their impressions of you.

  1. Many Offers! Yeah! But how to make the decision??!!

For some people, including me, this could be one of the toughest decisions to make in a lifetime. Even now, I still ask myself if I made the right decision. When you have offers from multiple programs that you really like, you really can’t go wrong with any of them. The key is to think about which program’s research focuses match yours most closely, and if two or more programs are tied in this aspect, you should think about where you would be happiest for the next 5 years.

  • Would you be happy to live in that area?
  • Did you like the atmosphere when you visited?
  • Do you think other students there have interests similar to yours?
  • Do you have multiple faculty to work with?
  • Will you be close to your significant others?

These can all be deal-breakers when you have offers from equally strong programs.

Applying to PhD programs requires a lot of hard work, but it will be one of the most enriching experiences in your life because you will really get to know yourself in this process. Whatever the outcome, you will be grateful for this experience. Good luck!

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Mental Health Within R&B and Hip-Hop Music Fri, 20 May 2016 16:07:22 +0000 Janelle is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Janelle and her fellow scholars here.

Recent media conversations surrounding mental health have increased after R&B singer Kehlani publically (and bravely) shared her struggles following a recent suicide attempt. Trouble ensued after Kehlani uploaded a photo of herself in a hospital bed shortly after being admitted. Since then many people, both celebrities and fans alike, have criticized and horrifically taunted Kehlani, claiming that the attempt to end her life was fabricated and was only done in efforts to gain attention.



First, we must recognize that invalidating a survivor’s lived experience is both despicable and cruel. There is no place for it. Moreover, we as a culture must remember that the famous people we place on pedestals are just that— people— who are prone to experience the same kinds of hurt and pain that you and I encounter every day. Sometimes, life just happens. And in those moments it does not matter who you are, where you are from, or how many followers you have, because life can and will eventually hurt.

It’s during these times that it becomes absolutely critical for us to consider, mull over, and extend grace (not judgment) to others— because behind the smiles and seemingly perfect Instagram pictures, you never know what someone is really going through.

From there it also becomes important for us to remember that Kehlani is not the first R&B or Hip-Hop artist to discuss their personal struggles through music.

In 2015 August Alsina released “Song Cry,” where he openly shared some of his fears, frustrations, and hurts. He went further to pen:

For all them nights I thought of suicide, contemplating
I can’t hold back these tears
Let me cry
They say a man ain’t supposed to cry

You can view the rest of the song here.

Over twenty years ago we saw a similar pattern among rappers like Notorious B.I.G. and DMX who shared their experiences with suicidal ideation and stress in “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Slippin”,  while A Tribe Called Quest shared their views on the matter in “Stressed Out”.


From left to right: Notorious B.I.G., A Tribe Called Quest, and DMX (Images retrieved from and

In this we are reminded that although anyone can experience difficulty, no one should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed for needing help in working to navigate the various mental health struggles they may face. If you or someone you know does need help, please be sure to review the resources listed below. Also, never underestimate the power and strength of sharing your own story, as your willingness to be vulnerable could be influential in helping save someone else’s life.

If you are someone that you know is struggling and needs help please be sure to pass along the information listed below.

If you prefer information via telephone:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • National Alliance on Mental Health Hotline: 1-800-950-6264

If you prefer information via text message:

Crisis Text Line (

Phone #: 741-741

If you prefer information via the web:

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: What Active Minds and My Project Has Taught Me Tue, 17 May 2016 13:02:29 +0000 Corey is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Corey and her fellow scholars here.

Wow, it’s already my last blog post.  Where did the time go?

It’s been a hectic semester of running around trying to get everything done, but I made it and my project is finally finished!  In the beginning of the semester, I originally hoped to prove the difference anonymity could have on cyber-bystanders and cyberbullying.  Unfortunately due to my small sample size, I was unable to definitively show that effect.  However, I found other interesting results that hadn’t anticipated.

One of my biggest hiccups in my project was transitioning platforms. Last semester I used an app called Rooms, which was a branch from its parent company Facebook.

rooms logogroup me logo

The Rooms app was unavailable this past semester so instead I used the app GroupMe.  Both were unique in their format and features, but were the most similar apps I could find.  However, there was one major difference in these two apps.  In GroupMe, users could “hide” posts and would then make the post invisible to the user but not to anyone else.  Whereas in Rooms, users could “report” an individual comment, post or chat room to an overall network server but would not disappear.

In the Rooms condition, more participants were inclined to report posts or comments than participants in the GroupMe condition.  This was interesting for me because I never imagined something as simple as word choice could make a huge impact on cyber-bystanders taking action in a cyber-bullying attack.

Although these results were not what I had originally hoped for, I’m excited to see where this research will take me in the future, and what this will mean for anonymous apps and their formatting.

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: A (Heroic) Journey of Struggle, Strength and Human Flourishing (Pt. I) Mon, 16 May 2016 18:54:33 +0000 Alfred is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Alfred and his fellow scholars here.

Hey everyone, I hope all is well. It’s been a while and a lot has happened since my last post. Currently, I am wrapping up this project!

Yeah, I know. It’s exciting but also very overwhelming. Next week, I submit this project, which is also m undergraduate honors thesis for the Education department and the week following, I defend my thesis. Thus, in the midst of all this craziness, this post will be split up into several parts, all of which will be looking at the findings, importance, implications, and conclusions of this research.

In reflecting back on the entire journey and also, in thinking about how to present this research, I am reminded of this question: What is the goal of this research? It was and still is, in essence, to highlight a different story of mental health.

In 1999, the U.S. Surgeon General defined mental health as:

“A state of successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity.”

However, after doing this research, I have gained a strong sense that we, as a society, have a dominant story of mental health as illness, and not mental health as flourishing.

mental health word art

It’s what Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls “the danger of a single story.”

In her TED talk, Adichie discusses how reading only British and American books influenced her to create characters that reflected the people in those books. She never imagined a person like her could exist in those stories. It wasn’t until she came across books written by African writers that her perception of who can be represented in stories changed. She has this to say:

“The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story… The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

While Adichie emphasizes the power that a single story can have on our perceptions about communities, cultures, countries, and continents, she makes it clear that this “danger” can exist anywhere.

The interesting thing about this revelation that I, too, had a single story about my own life. One that I didn’t fully acknowledge until I came to university. In a nutshell, I viewed my life through a negative lens. In my mind, I thought I was coming to university at a disadvantaged and didn’t see the strength nor the beauty in the experiences that I had within me.

And that narrative is extremely toxic. The heroes of this research are breaking that dominant story of disadvantage and paving way on doing and being. Stay tuned.

In reflecting on this journey, (as seen in my last post), this has not been the easiest. In fact, I equate this to what Joseph Campbell called “the Hero’s Journey”.

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Introducing Heidi T. Tuason, MPH Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:01:32 +0000 Heidi is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Heidi and her fellow scholars here.

Magandang araw sa inyong lahat! (Good day to you all!) My name is Heidi Tumang Tuason, and I’m a 3rd year Doctor of Public Health student at UCLA, studying Community Health and minoring in Asian American Studies.

I’m excited to share with you about my research. But first, as I’m learning in my qualitative research classes, it’s important to know where the researcher comes from, so before I talk about my project, here’s some background about me.

5 Things About Me through Places I’ve Called Home:

  1. DALY CITY, CALIFORNIA – Daly City born and raised from an immigrant family

I am the youngest of three daughters (“bunso”) of an immigrant family who came to the US from the Philippines in the 1970s, products of the post-1965 Immigration Act wave. I was born in San Francisco and grew up there and in Daly City until high school.

My family is one of the many Filipino families that make up one-third of the population of Daly City, which is why some people call it the “Pinoy Capital”. I’ve realized that growing up here has really shaped how I see the world and my commitment to the Filipino community


(Left) My mom and sister migrating from the Philippines, 1970. (Right) My sisters and I with my mom, 1986.

  1. MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Only one in my family not born in the Philippines – but studies abroad there and speak the Filipino language
heidi in philippines

Visiting a Farming Community during Study Abroad in the Philippines, 2004

I was the only one in my family (and of my sisters) not born in the Philippines, but among my sisters, I’m the only one who speaks the Filipino language. I’ve had the opportunity to study abroad in the Philippines several times through various programs (2004, 2009, 2010, 2014) and also studied the Filipino language at UCSD and UC Berkeley.

I’m proud to say that I’ve even gotten to the proficiency that I have conducted work and research using the Filipino language, and I’ve even had the opportunity to pass along the language to over 100 UCLA students.

I regularly go to the Philippines now and part of my heart still feels very connected to the motherland.

  1. SAN DIEGO, CA – Engineering Drop-out turned Ethnic Studies & Biology major and Community organizer & activist

I went to UC San Diego for undergrad with the dreams of becoming a bioengineer and making synthetic hearts. But then after studying abroad in the Philippines, I started getting involved with the Pilipino student organizations and became a student activist.

heidi at ucsd and open mic

(Left) Pilipino Students Saving Tagalog at UCSD, 2005. (Right) Performing at a Kamalayan Kollective open mic, 2006.

I got more interested in the histories and experiences of immigrant communities of color and became an Ethnic Studies major, but kept the Biology major as well since I was interested in health. This double major didn’t really make sense (to me and others) at the time, but eventually led me to a career in community health.

While at UCSD, I also worked at OASIS & Summerbridge, helping to recruit and retain historically underrepresented students of color, and at the Cross-Cultural Center as a Diversity Peer Educator, learning how to facilitate workshops and discussions about diversity and racism. My undergrad in San Diego really laid a foundation for how I approach the field of public health and mental health.

  1. SAN FRANCISCO & OAKLAND, CA – Fell in love with Community clinics & Community Health work

After college, I did a program called Americorps Community Healthcorps in San Francisco. I was placed at a free clinic called the Women’s Community Clinic as an Assistant Clinic Manager and thrown into the thick of community health! There, I did all kinds of things ranging from:

  • supervising clinic shifts with over a dozen staff,
  • counseling patients around urinary tract infections, potential unwanted pregnancies, and potential positive HIV results,
  • handling frustrated patients and being thanked by grateful patients,
  • counting our pills to make sure we had enough in stock,
  • improving their paper wait list process and moving it to an electronic database so patients with the highest priority would be seen earlier
heidi at womens comm clinic

Screenshot from the Women’s Community Clinic website, 2009

I learned a lot through that year and continued to work and volunteer there after my year of service. I fell in love with working at community clinics, and in the years following, worked at Asian Health Services and La Clinica de la Raza in Oakland, and did projects and interned with other community-based health organizations like Community Health for Asian Americans and API Wellness Center.

At La Clinica, I learned how to be a community health planner, and work with community health workers and staff to develop community-appropriate health programs and then communicate that to funders to get funding by writing grants about our plans and writing reports about our progress. I had the opportunity to work on programs including culturally-appropriate integrated behavioral health services and community health programs like domestic violence prevention using street theater.

After my experience at La Clinica, I transferred over to San Francisco to work on a mental health project through the Asian & Pacific Islander Health Parity Coalition (now called the Asian & Pacific Islander Mental Health Collaborative). I organized community leaders from Samoan, Filipino, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian communities in San Francisco through a community-based planning process to develop culturally & linguistically relevant mental health programs. I also helped build the organizations’ capacity to implement those programs.

During my masters’ program, I also started interning with the Center for Digital Storytelling (now called StoryCenter) and after helping out with a couple digital storytelling workshops around HIV stigma reduction, I got to bring this to the API mental health work I was doing.

In 2012, I co-faciliated and assisted with 3 digital storytelling workshops with the Samoan, Southeast Asian, and Filipino communities to help tell their stories around mental health stigma. It is through all of this community clinic and digital storytelling work that I came to my current research project.

  1. BERKELEY & LOS ANGELES, CA – Public Health training I’m getting another kind of doctorate (not a PhD) called a DrPH

After getting a taste of the community clinic setting, I came back to school to get my MPH at UC Berkeley with a focus in Maternal & Child Health to gain skills to help me be a more effective community health worker.

I did my MPH internship in the Philippines working with an organization called Likhaan Center for Women’s Health around reproductive health access using advocacy, direct service, and research. I got to see how Filipino community health workers / promotoras brought health services to the poorest of the poor in the Philippines, and through that experience, deepened my language skills, cultural understanding, and commitment to the Filipino community.

After working another 3 years in the field after my masters, I came back to UCLA to get my doctorate in public health (DrPH), an applied doctorate different than a PhD, to continue to strengthen my research and leadership skills to better advocate for the communities I work with. I’m 3 years in and just passed my first qualifying exam, so I’m on my way to the dissertation!

heidi at mural in la

At the Historic Filipinotown mural in Los Angeles

ABOUT THE KAMALAYAN PROJECT: Digital Stories Addressing Filipino Mental Health Stigma

My research project entitled “The Kamalayan Project” builds upon my community health and digital storytelling background and aims to uncover stories of mental health challenges and stigma in the Filipino community, using digital storytelling (short participatory community-made films).

In this pilot project, I am looking specifically at the mental health experiences of the Filipino community through the lens of Filipino college students (particularly young Filipina women (Pinays), undocumented Filipinos, and LGBT Filipinos).

kamalayan project

The Kamalayan Project will also hold community screenings of the digital stories and facilitate community dialogues about mental health in the Filipino community.

Through data collected from the digital storytelling workshop participants and community audiences, my research project hopes contribute to the body of knowledge that illustrates how creative methods can be used to address mental health stigma, improve mental health awareness, and increase mental health service access in the Filipino community.


Through 3-day digital storytelling workshops (based on the StoryCenter’s curriculum), participants go through a process of sharing their story in a circle of peers, writing their story, recording their story, creating a short digital story with images, and screening their story.

digital storytelling outline

Through surveys and interviews with participants, I will explore the specific cultural aspects that have affected their perceptions and experiences of mental health. I will also explore what effect the digital storytelling process has on the participants’ willingness to share their story, perceptions of mental health, and willingness to seek mental health services and encourage others to do so as well.

We will also conduct community screenings of the digital stories, and have group discussions:

  • with audience members about what they thought of the stories (if any resonated with them and if it affected their perception of mental health in the community), and
  • with digital storytelling participants about how the process of sharing their stories was like


I am hoping that this research will fill a void in research that talks about the experiences of these Filipino subpopulations and a void in the research that shows how creative methods are used in reducing mental health stigma and increasing awareness of mental health in hopes that people will seek help if they need it and tell their friends and family.


I have been blessed to be funded by both the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and Active Minds to conduct this research, but since it was my first official research project, I also encountered some challenges.

Coming from a health program implementation background, I did not know I had to get approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to do my project or how to go about it. It was a steep learning curve for me, and took me several months to work on the application and get the first draft submitted.

The IRB application has gone through two full board reviews and has since been in review for nearly 5 months now. My advisors, mentors, and I are working closely with the IRB committee to make revisions to ensure the protection of participants, and I am hoping that I will receive approval soon, so my team and I can start data collection (and analysis).

Given the Spring Quarter, it may be challenging to recruit participants so late in the year during one of the busiest times for the Filipino student community (Pilipino Cultural Night season, finals, and graduations), but we will revisit the timeline once IRB approves the project.

Despite the challenges, I’m trying to stay resilient and stay in line with Brene Brown’s philosophies of Daring Greatly and Rising Strong – I’m committed to seeing this project through and am dedicated to the ups and downs of the journey. I’ll be keeping you all updated on how it goes.

heidi and dogWish us luck!

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Learning More about Asian American History Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:49:41 +0000 Tao is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Tao and her fellow scholars here.

angry asian man figureA couple of weeks ago, I attended the Asian Americans Conference at Indiana University. The keynote speaker was Phil Yu, the founder of one of the earliest and most popular Asian American blogs, Angry Asian Man.

I imagined many times how angry the blogger would be, but to my surprise, he is not an angry guy, and actually he is very calm and nice. In his speech, I learned how he started the blog as a way of voicing the issues that Asian Americans have to face in the U.S., and how he fights for the rights of Asian Americans, based on the privileges that previous Asian Americans have fought for him.

In a workshop at the conference, I participated in an activity, in which all members of the workshop were asked to list three American food that first came to our mind. Not surprisingly, the most nominated included burger, fries, fried chicken, and pie.

Even though Chinese take-out restaurants were three times more than McDonald’s in this country, and that Chinese American food was adapted to fit the American taste just like burgers and other “typical” American food, it is still not considered a common and typical American food.

food image

Although we cannot equal food to people, we can’t deny that just like Chinese food is not considered American enough, Asian Americans are also considered not American enough. No matter how fluent they speak English, they are still considered perpetual foreigner – a form of racism many Asian Americans experience. The following video shows exactly how this type of racism enacts. This is exactly why I want to study it, and use research to change the status quo.

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Let’s Play With Some Data Wed, 20 Apr 2016 12:49:57 +0000 Matt is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Matt and his fellow scholars here.

pikachuHello readers! I’m gearing up for a summer of reading, writing, and learning about college student mental health.

One of the best ways to learn about something, at least for me, is to just jump right into it and play with it and look at it. Lucky for me, much of the data I’m using for my project is available online to play with. Here’s some of the most interesting findings (in my opinion):

knowledge of services graph

This graph shows knowledge of services (i.e., counseling, hotlines, etc.) vs. where students are living.

Students living on-campus (OnOth, OnRes, Greek) have the highest knowledge of services, while students living off-campus (Off, Fam) have the lowest.Why is this? My guess is that students on-campus are highly exposed to information about resources, while students living off-campus don’t get this information as much.

anxiety v field of study graph

This graph shows anxiety vs. field of study. I’m only showing the largest and smallest four, as well as the average.

It shows that students in majors related to arts and design (e.g., architecture and music), as well as social work, have the highest anxiety. Students in business and engineering appear to have the lowest. Why is this? Perhaps the subjectivity of the coursework (e.g. grading a sculpture vs. mathematical calculations) causes greater worry for students in these majors.

While these are only two graphs, there’s a ton of other variables to look at, including stigma, help-seeking, substance use, numbers of years in school, gender, and race/ethnicity. I encourage you to go check out the data yourself!

These numbers represent real college students, and may help you come up with new ideas for programs. For example, do stress relief activities with arts students, or reach out to students living at home!

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Reflections and FAQs on Working with Trans Youth Mon, 18 Apr 2016 12:27:53 +0000 Quintin is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Quintin and his fellow scholars here.

01-trans-child-big-ss-225x300When I began the project for the Active Minds Emerging Scholar fellowship, a qualitative examination of the experiences of suicide in trans*-identified youth, I expected to learn a lot about the experience of being trans*. I expected to have some emotional reaction due to the heavy content of suicide and discussions of wanting to die. I did not expect to have such emotional responses because the experiences hit so close to home.

I’ve had a great deal of trouble writing this post that is becoming more and more needed. As I’ve struggled to write this I learned of the passing of Prince. Prince was one of the key influential artists for my adolescence. Like any kid in high school in the 90s, every party included 1999 on its playlist.

Prince, famously known for going by an unpronounceable glyph that had a striking resemblance to the symbols for both male and female genders, for dressing in women’s underwear and raincoats in high school, and for loving anything purple, was an example to me and the rest of the world that there is not one right way to be a man. This pressure to be the right kind of man or right kind of woman is something transyouth commonly identify as a reason for wanting to die.

I wish I could take these messages about what I know about being a man now, and the hope I have, and give them to the 15-year-old self I remember being bullied at high school because he wore a purple shirt and purple backpack (his favorite color) to high school. I wish could I tell him to be sure to stay because things can get better—as is being done in this great project.  I wish I could tell my trans-brothers and -sisters to stay because things will get better—but sometimes I don’t know if they will. However, with your help I believe we can live through this and make life worth living.

Through this project I have found that the issues these transgender youth talked about are things I too have experienced. My next post will specifically address reasons of why and how I am able to reconcile my own beliefs to be a trans* ally—and how YOU CAN TOO!

Final thoughts, I’ll close with the answers to several Frequently Asked Questions:

Is transgender really a thing?

Yup. Totally a thing. The experts have lots of discussions about the prevalence rate that range from 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 2,500.

What’s the difference between transsexual and transgender?

Transsexual has fallen out of favor with many because it has a diagnostic feel and because it specifically reference sex rather than gender. When embracing the concept that gender is socially constructed sex refers only to body parts (sex=body parts you have; gender=how you identify).

Transgender is an inclusive term that can also include transsexual, cross-dressers, drag queens/kings, and anyone else who fights against a strict socially constructed gender norm.

Other comments:

Transvestite: Technically synonym with crossdresser it’s largely considered pejorative.

Non-binary: Male and Female is the binary. Anything else would be non-binary. In our study, between 90 participants there were 24 unique sexual identities and 35 unique gender identities.

Gender-queer: Another umbrella term. Can refer to just about anyone that doesn’t fit strict boxes of male or female.

Intersex: A person that is born with some characteristics of both male and female, either organs, genitals, chromosomes, or hormones. Some estimate this prevalence almost as high as 2% of births.

Being transgender is so rare, why is it something I should care about?

While, yes, the occurrence of transgender is relatively small, the issues that face are likely not that different than issues that have bothered you or people close to you—they are, however, magnified in the trans* population. I’ll talk more about why you should care and how caring about transpeople being treated like humans should be part of your lifestyle too in my next post.

But saying they, their, or zer isn’t grammatically correct…

This is actually a great commentary about the power of social construction. Grammar is entirely socially constructed. So much so that people started writing books about what is the correct way to speak. Just like people have started writing books (and passing laws) about the right way to be a man or be a woman. While it may not feel grammatically correct to you, maybe you can think of a time that someone kept calling you by the wrong name. I bet it didn’t feel very good. It might have even felt dehumanizing. Remember that. What is more important? Grammar or validating someone’s experience as a human being?

I’m sticking with validating a person as a human being—despite my passionate love affair with grammar.

To learn more about trans* terms check out this wonder guide from Ohio University’s LGBT Center.

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Cai’s Good News Thu, 14 Apr 2016 12:17:13 +0000 Cai is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Cai and his fellow scholars here.

Hi all! I know you’ve been missing my posts, so this is me again, with some good news!

  1. First of all, I decided to join Stanford University in the fall as a first-year PhD student in Psychology! This is a milestone in my life. I am very excited about the next 5 years at Stanford and can’t wait to be spoiled by the unparalleled intellectual environment there, and of course, the good weather in the Bay Area.

  1. I received a competitive Psi Chi Undergraduate Research Grant to support my current project! This would allow me to recruit more participants as I can pay more of them with more money. I guess sometimes materialism can be used for good ;)

  1. I am halfway through data collection! I have already collected data from 80 participants and need 60 more. To be completely honest, it was really exhausting to collect data from so many people, especially when it was an experiment where you needed to take care of even the most trivial detail. But no pains no gains. I am hopeful that I will be able to finish data collection by the end of the semester! Oh, I should probably stop stealing food from participants’ leftovers.

  1. I gave a short-paper presentation at the 4th Eating Disorder International Conference in London, England on March 17th. The presentation was about another project that our lab (CARE Lab) at Dickinson College worked on as a team. This was my first short paper presentation at an international conference. I am very happy that I made it. Many thanks to Dr. Suman Ambwani and other lab mates.

  1. I’m a month away from my graduation from college. This will be a bittersweet moment! But I am super excited about the new chapter in my life and can’t wait to go back home. I miss China! FYI: Authentic Chinese food is a totally different concept from what you guys have here in the US.

Looking back, I do feel that I was lucky enough to have all the wonderful people and opportunities to support my career [shout-out to Active Minds]. As I begin doing new wonderful things in the future, I will always appreciate the generous help I have received from those people and organizations! Having had the personal experience of benefiting so much from others’ help, I am even more committed to helping people around me with my research and academic endeavors!

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: 3 Ways Facebook is Working to Prevent Suicide Tue, 12 Apr 2016 16:33:34 +0000 Janelle is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Janelle and her fellow scholars here.

Within the past few years, we have seen a number of people post messages or pictures to their Facebook page within hours of ending their life.  Since then, Facebook has been proactive in taking steps towards preventing suicide by providing information to persons currently experiencing suicidal ideation, and alerting others to potential warning signs and tips for helping someone who might be suicidal. Check out some of Facebook’s specific steps below.

1. Both users who might be suicidal and those who are concerned about them can get help. Facebook implemented its first plans to prevent suicide in 2011, but efforts were both expanded and updated in February 2015 when Facebook joined forces with various mental health organizations (i.e. Now Matters Now, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, etc.) by creating more user-friendly resources.

Users now have the option to flag content on their timeline as problematic, and from there are prompted to select from a list of options including getting help professional or having Facebook review the post and contact the person of concern directly. You can read more about the specific updates here.

fb flag content screenshot_1      fb flag content screenshot_2

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2. Specific information is now available for members of some traditionally under-served groups. Special information is listed for members of the U.S. Military and law enforcement, along with additional information being made available for persons who identify on the LGBT spectrum. The Trevor Project , Veterans Crisis Line, and Safe Call Now are just a few groups who have worked with Facebook to raise awareness surrounding suicide.

And although these efforts are absolutely critical and very much needed, it is important to remember that there are other groups (i.e. racial & ethnic minorities) who also experience many barriers when seeking mental health treatment— and could potentially benefit from having specific information made available to them via Facebook. I’m hopeful that future iterations of Facebook’s suicide prevention plan will include information for members of other typically overlooked groups.

  1. Facebook has also worked to provide contact information for suicide prevention groups in over 30 countries. No matter if users are in South Africa, Lithuania or the Czech Republic, phone numbers, videos, and website links are now available for users who have questions or concerns related to suicide in regions across the globe.

There are many other contributions Facebook has made in working to combat suicide, so please be sure to visit the Suicide Prevention tab in the Safety Tools & Resources section of their Help Center to learn more.


If you are someone that you know is struggling and needs help please be sure to pass along the information listed below.

If you prefer information via telephone:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • National Alliance on Mental Health Hotline: 1-800-950-6264

If you prefer information via text message:

Crisis Text Line (

Phone #: 741-741

If you prefer information via the web:

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