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The mental health challenges of Asian-Americans

Posted on: October 2nd, 2015 in Mental Health No Comments


Asian-Americans are the fastest growing racial demographic in the United States and are also very diverse, representing 43 ethnicities and speaking over a 100 languages. Elizabeth J. Kramer of Charles B. Wang Community Health Center in New York claims “saving face,” a sense of shame and other cultural pressures prevent adequate mental health treatment in the instances of illness.

These attributes may contribute to the problem of suicide, which is the fifth-leading cause of death among Asian-Americans compared to the ninth-leading cause of fatality for non-Hispanic white Americans. Of particular note is the high rate of suicide among Asian-American women over the age of 65, trumping statistics regarding older females of other races.

Koko Nishi, MA, a doctoral candidate with George Washington University, finds Asian-Americans three times less likely to seek out mental health assistance compared to Caucasian Americans. Nishi cites several factors influencing mental health detriments and a lack in care:

  • Family obligations involving traditions and cultural cues.
  • Denial of mental health symptoms due to their taboo nature in Asian culture.
  • Pressure from parents to excel in school despite consequences of high-pressure environments.
  • Discrimination based on color of skin or cultural differences.
  • The “model minority” spotlight, a misconception about Asian-Americans pertaining to the idea this demographic has perfectly overcome culture clash and social isolation.

Doris Chang, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the New School for Social Research, speaks of domestic violence as another contributor to Asian-American mental health crises.

“I don’t think recent immigrants see it as a huge problem in the community. It tends to be considered a private family issue,” Dr. Chang said.

Ellen D. Wu, a history professor at Indiana University, writing for the Los Angeles Times, laments the difficulties in embracing the model minority stereotype for Asian-Americans. She says accepting the myth inevitably skips over difficulties facing this demographic, such as the aforementioned mental health difficulties, not to mention threats of poverty, addiction and other issues affecting people of all demographics.

“We’ve heard enough of specious generalizations about “model minorities.” We need to see Asian Americans — and other racial, ethnic and religious groups — for what they are: dynamic, diverse and much more than one-dimensional stereotypes,” Wu demands.

Sovereign Health Group takes seriously the problems facing various communities. Our mental health professionals dig deep to help those of any background deal with problems they face each day. Feel free to call us at any time for professional counseling.

Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer

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