Pacific Islanders are persons who trace their roots to the native peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. Although they make up the third fastest growing racial group in the U.S., their mental health needs and attitudes regarding mental illness are poorly understood. One reason for this is that discussing mental health problems with others is largely taboo in their cultures. Also, stigma, language barriers, and lack of information about available resources and services complicate Pacific Islanders’ access to mental health services.
To address this clinical gap, Andrew Subica, Ph.D., an assistant professor of social medicine and population health in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, has received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to conduct one of the first studies of mental health and mental illness among Pacific Islanders. The two-year $452,000 grant is titled, “Engaging Pacific Islander Perspectives on Mental Illness and Mental Health Service Engagement.”
“The goal of the study is to capture the perspectives of community-dwelling Pacific Islanders in two large Pacific Islander communities–Samoans in Los Angeles and the Marshallese in Arkansas–in order to develop the first culturally attuned manualized intervention to promote Pacific Islander engagement in mental health services,” said Subica, the grant’s principal investigator and a member of UCR’s Center for Healthy Communities.
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