Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders

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ADAA recognizes that the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community incorporates a broad variety of ethnicities, identities and cultures. The Asian American community can include roots from over 20 countries in East and Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, while Pacific Islanders (also known as Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders—NHPI), encompasses communities with people of Polynesia (Native Hawaiians), Micronesia, Melanesia and even Samoa (Samoans) decent. Both Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders deal with themes of trauma, stress, and historical stigmas stemming from cultural traditions. In order to continue our commitment to inclusion and promote the importance of identity, ADAA wants to use this page and its resources to highlight the unique mental health challenges faced by both of these communities.  Find out how to share your story with ADAA. 

Understanding Mental Health Barriers 

It is estimated that there are approximately 22.9 million Asian/Pacific Americans living in the U.S., including those with a combination of Asian Pacific Heritage and another race. Of this population, 2.9 million are living with mental health conditions.1 There are several barriers to this population seeking help from mental health professionals, including language barriers,2 stigmas, and a lack of awareness of resources and mental health services. 

"Asian American and Pacific Islander mental health"

The Silence in Asian American Communities

Because of cultural norms, silence is one of the most common barriers in Asian American communities. Even though the community often deals with racial trauma and the stress that comes with attempting to uphold traditions as first-generation immigrants, studies show that Asian Americans are three times less likely than their White counterparts to seek treatment for their mental health concerns. In addition, they also avoid seeking treatment or utilizing mental health services because doing so would admit the existence of a mental health disorder, and in turn, might bring shame to their family's name. The impact of silence comes with the fear of shame and continues to cripple and hinder the mental health progress of the community. However, as more members of the community learn how powerful and courageous it is to speak out about and seek care for their mental health, more members will begin to dispel the stigmas and find the benefits of mental health care.  

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Stigmas within the Pacific Islanders (NHPI) Communities  

Studies have shown that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) can deal with a heavy burden of depression, anxiety, and alcohol use, with a high perceived need for services.4 However, there is a cultural stigma that less frequently perceives mental health disorders as serious, which instead more commonly promotes social distance from people with depression.5 Ultimately, these negative stigmas can continue to enforce low levels of help-seeking from the community. With this understanding, destigmatizing mental health within the NHPI community should include intentional culturally responsible interventions and awareness programs that acknowledge and highlight sociocultural and socioeconomic experiences as a public health priority.  

Choosing the Right Provider  

"Asian American and Pacific Islander mental health providers"

As both communities find it difficult to discuss mental health care, it is important to find a provider who demonstrates an understanding of the cultural norms and needs of their community. Finding a provider that showcases cultural competence—their ability to give care to patients with diverse values, beliefs, and behaviors, and to consider their social, cultural, and linguistic needs3—is essential in being able to relate to the patient and providing beneficial help. 

When searching or meeting a provider, it is important to ask questions to get a sense of their level of cultural sensitivity and whether they have treated other Asian-Americans or NHPIs, and how they plan to take your beliefs and practices into account when suggesting treatment.  

Below is a list of therapists and mental health resources for both the AAPI and NHPI communities.  

Providers for Asian American Communities 

For Pacific Islander Communities 

Learn more about finding the right therapist

"Asian American and Pacific Islander mental health resources"

Additional Support and Resources from the ADAA Community

These ADAA resources—blog posts, webinars, articles, and stories—provide helpful information, support, and opportunities to learn more about mental health within AAPI communities. 

ADAA Member Blog Posts, Webinars, and Media Resources

Infographics

Trending Articles

2022 

2020-2021 

Additional Resources


References:

  1. file:///Users/tiaraj./Desktop/2022-BIPOC-MHM-Toolkit.pdf 
  2. Asian American/Pacific Islander Communities and Mental Health, MHA 
  3. Mental Health Among Asian-Americans, APA 
  4. Becoming a Culturally Competent Health Care Organization, AHA 
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30991907/  
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30716597/  
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