“Being Asian, especially from an immigrant Asian family, we avoid these things,” Tran said. “There’s … a cultural idea that if you have a mental illness, you’re kind of like a person in the family that needs to be hidden away.”
When it comes to seeking help for mental health, the Asian-American community lags behind other groups, including by avoiding it completely. In fact, research shows Asian-Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health help than white Americans.
In the case of Asian immigrants like Tran’s family, many come from cultures that do not see mental illness as a legitimate illness, leading to stigma.
But a new generation of mental health care providers is trying to change that. They’re offering services like family-directed therapy and employing specialists who speak different languages to help immigrants who can’t comfortably express themselves in English.
Dr. Samantha Liu of Asian Community Mental Health Services has seen the effects of mental health stigma firsthand in her 20 years as a psychiatrist. She specializes in working with Asian-American patients, especially Chinese-Americans.
“When I see them, a lot of these patients come to me in severe conditions compared to patients of other ethnicities,” Liu said. “By the time they go to the doctor or psychiatrist, they are already in bad condition. It’s very hard for them to recover.”
“There is a fear among the community that if anyone finds out, they will be ostracized,” said Dr. Vasudev N. Makhija, founder
Many psychiatrists who focus on Asian-American communities believe it’s most effective to educate the entire family while treating the patient.
One approach that works is informing the immediate family, said Dr. Albert Gaw of Asian Community Mental Health Services, who has written about best practices for working with Asian-American patients. Makhija agrees, saying that when he sees Asian-American patients, the family often accompanies the patient to the interview room ― with the patient’s consent. Using this strategy, doctors will fully inform the family about the medications and treatment, as well as what symptoms to watch out for.
To spread awareness about mental health in Asian-American communities, some organizations host public workshops, health camps and community outreach events that offer screenings and discussion of common conditions like depression and substance abuse.
Read more at HuffingtonPost.com.