Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, FBI data shows that people of Asian descent increasingly have been targets of racially motivated attacks.
“Hate crimes have spilled over to affect the community in dramatic ways. People feel scapegoated and blamed for the pandemic,” said Dr. Howard Kyongju Koh, the Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.
That has fueled a rise in anxiety and depression in a population that is already one of the least likely to access much-needed mental health services, according to the nonprofit Mental Health America.
Koh, who is a former U.S. assistant secretary for health and of Korean descent, has written extensively about racially motivated violence against Asian Americans and its health consequences. A recent article he co-wrote in the journal Health Affairs cites national polls from 2020 and 2021 in which more than a third of Asian adults in the U.S. said their mental health worsened during the pandemic, with 58% saying reports of violence against other Asian people affected their mental health.
In 2019, just 9%-10% of U.S. adults of Asian descent reported mental health issues, according to federal statistics. A 2021 survey by the Asian American Psychological Association showed the level at more than 40% since the arrival of COVID-19. Among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander adults in the AAPA survey, 38% reported symptoms of depression or anxiety.
But according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, Asian Americans are 60% less likely and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders three times less likely to receive mental health services than their white peers. When they do seek help, according to the AAPA, they face challenges: 62% of Asian Americans and 41% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders diagnosed with mental health conditions said they needed assistance accessing care.
Read more at Heart.org.