Therapist speaks to ASiA club about mental health


Therapist Jacqueline Liebman-Gentile answers a student’s question during the discussion. Credit: Saba Nia/Chronicle

Saba Nia

Marriage and family therapist Jacqueline Liebman-Gentile visited ASiA club to speak to students about mental health. Club leaders said they decided to host Liebman-Gentile’s visit in light of the recent discussions about mental health occurring in Asia, which followed the suicide of K-pop star Kim Jong-hyun.


“It’s a controversy because in Asian cultures people are like it’s taboo to talk about mental illnesses or mental health,” ASiA club leader Isabella Huang ’19 said. “And people think there’s something physically wrong with you like you’re insane if you have anxiety or depression. So we wanted to talk about that and clear it up and have a discussion with all of our club members.”


Liebman-Gentile taught audience members that in addition to confiding in others and holding discussions, student can improve on their own mental health through relaxation, and led students and faculty members in an exercise of mindfulness.


Focusing on their own mental health would also allow students to help others improve theirs, Liebman-Gentile said. She cited the “oxygen-mask theory,” a concept that states one must help himself first before being able to help others, and explained how students can identify those in their lives who may be suffering from mental issues.


“Different cultures have different beliefs about mental health and so one of the things that we have to is is remove the stigma of shame around mental health,” Liebman-Gentile said. “And I think that we have to not only do it in private school but do it in the whole country because the reality is is that if people are communicating and there’s a conversation going on, your mental health will be a lot stronger.”


Students said that they enjoyed the presentation and are pleased with the steps both affinity groups and members of administration are taking in discussing mental health in the community.


“I think it’s good for Harvard-Westlake to do these things because it’s such a competitive school and I know so many people who kind of suffer from that environment,” Huang said. “So it’s really important for people to talk more about mental health because a lot of people feel alone in that sense. But honestly a lot of people are experiencing the same thing, and we just want people to know that they’re not alone and that they have other people to talk to. So I think it’s really important to get the word out and keep the discussion open so people can not feel isolated in that sense.”