Asian Americans and Mental Health
It’s time for our communities to speak up and seek help with mental health issues.
by Rebekah Yang
Mental health is often a sensitive subject within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Though mental health is not an issue that Advancing Justice | AAJC currently works on, we feel it is important to share this information at the intersection of AAPI Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month — both occurring in May.
According to research conducted by the National Latino and Asian American Study, Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services than their white counterparts. In addition to seeking out mental health resources less often, research suggests that second-generation Asian Americans experience mental health conditions more frequently than their immigrant parents.
Some of the most common mental health practices are co-opted from the cultures of the people who experience mental illness more frequently and seek treatment least often.
Given these disparities, it’s highly ironic that some of the most common mental health practices are co-opted from the cultures of the people who experience mental illness more frequently and seek treatment least often. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices originate from Buddhist and Hindu traditions; however, in the United States and other Western countries, these techniques are most often used by Caucasians.
Perhaps mental health conditions affect communities of color disproportionately not because of cultural stigma, but because of the psychological byproduct of living at the margins of a racialized society. The photo above was taken at the Asian American Feminism x Mental Health and Wellness installation presented by the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University. As shown, a spectator comments, “Is it really a disorder to be maladjusted to a sick society?” Another question to ask of ourselves is: how does the diversity within the AAPI identity affect expressions of mental health? And to whose standard of mental health do we conform?
Among the many questions, one thing is clear. We have to speak more about mental health issues within the community and provide the community support that will empower more Asian Americans to seek the treatment they need. Do not let the observances of this month pass you by without reflecting on the importance of these issues and seeking help if you or someone you know is in need of assistance.
Beka Yang is a rising sophomore at Brown University and an intern with Advancing Justice | AAJC through the Council of Korean Americans fellowship.