A 2007 study by Jennifer Abe, a psychology professor at Loyola Marymount University, found that less than 9% of Asian Americans sought any type of mental health services, compared with nearly 18% of the general population nationwide. A survey released in October by the National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 77% of people of color with mood disorders reported struggling to talk about their condition, compared with 69% of White people.
Yet access to mental health care has never been more important. According to the Household Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2020 and 2021, about 30% to 40% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, up from 10% in 2019. For Asian Americans, the rise in anti-Asian hate has taken an added toll on mental well-being, increasing their need for mental health support.
But many aren’t getting it. According to experts familiar with the Asian American experience, stigma, pressure to live up to the myth of Asian American success, and culturally inappropriate services prevent people from getting the mental health care they need. To address this problem, experts recommend creating an approach to mental health care that is more culturally sensitive to the needs and beliefs of Asian Americans; uses non-stigmatized language, such as “behavioral health professional” instead of “psychotherapist”; provides individually tailored treatment; and increases availability of bilingual therapists.
Nancy Liu, associate clinical professor at the University of California, said it’s important to address both the commonalities among Asian Americans and to tailor therapy to an individual’s specific stressors and socioeconomic and cultural background. Training more therapists on how to deliver culturally appropriate therapy would help, she added.
DJ Ida, executive director of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, said the need for culturally aware, bilingual mental health professionals is greater now than ever before.
To get more Asian Americans to seek care, providers need to recognize that some cultures don’t see mental and physical health as separate. She said they also need to think beyond medication and talk therapy, which can sometimes re-traumatize people. Other more culturally appropriate avenues for addressing mental health difficulties could include gardening or exercising, for example.
Read more at YesMagazine.org.