Fighting the Stigma: Mental Health among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Fighting the Stigma: Mental Health among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Although the US has made progress in raising awareness of mental health and normalizing conversations about the topic, a great deal of stigma remains around mental illness and poor mental health, and many still face barriers to accessing services and supports.

Among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, these issues are often shrouded by silence and shame, allowing misconceptions and minimization of mental health concerns to thrive.

But AAPIs are not a monolith . Our understanding of their mental health needs—and how we respond—should reflect the diversity of experiences within the AAPI community . Here’s what you should know about this important topic and underserved population this Mental Health Awareness Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month . AAPIs are the least likely of any racial or ethnic group to report mental health issues and to seek mental health services

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, AAPI adults report serious psychological distress at about half the rate of the US average —but there is wide variation between AAPI ethnic subgroups. Vietnamese Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders report poor mental health at rates closer to the US average than to their AAPI counterparts.

There are also notable differences in mental health across immigration-related factors . Second-generation AAPIs were almost twice as likely to report a mental health disorder in the past year than first-generation immigrants. But even after controlling for prevalence of mental illness, AAPI adults seek mental health services less than any other group. They are almost three times less likely than white adults to seek mental health services for unmet needs. A 2015 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration study found AAPIs were more likely than people of other racial or ethnic identities to cite “low perceived need,” “structural barriers,” and “not thinking services would help” as reasons for not using mental health services. AAPIs face cultural and structural barriers to accessing mental health services

Although there are deep-rooted systemic challenges with the American mental health care system as a whole—such as inadequate funding and support, uneven geographic distribution of services, and fragmented and uncoordinated service providers— certain cultural and structural barriers also affect service provision and quality of care for AAPI communities more specifically.

Culturally specific attitudes among AAPIs that stigmatize help-seeking include the following: The model minority myth. The assumption that all AAPIs experience educational success and economic stability can place immense pressure on people to meet these societal and familial expectations, often at the cost of their mental well-being.

Generational experiences of hardship. Many first-generation AAPIs experienced trauma as immigrants or refugees adapting to life in a foreign land. As a result, younger generations often feel guilty about sharing their mental health […]

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How I Learned To Talk To My Filipino Mom About My Mental Health

It can be hard to talk with family members about issues like depression and anxiety. It’s especially difficult for the adult children of immigrant parents. NPR’s Malaka Gharib has this story of a Filipino-American woman working to change that.

MALAKA GHARIB, BYLINE: Twenty-eight-year-old Ryan Tanep (ph) is from Virginia Beach, Va. Her parents both came from the Philippines. Growing up, she often felt like she was living in two worlds – the American world and the Filipino world. And that had an effect on her emotional life.

RYAN TANEP: Emotions and feelings – just something you don’t talk about.

GHARIB: I know what that’s like. My mom is Filipino. When I was a kid and I told her about something that bothered me, she’d just tell me not to think about it.

TANEP: You just kind of soldier on through it and not really ever tell your parents or family members whenever you’re going through something tough.

GHARIB: Ryan remembers this one time when she was in high school. She came home crying because a girl had bullied her.

TANEP: And my mom told me to read the Bible. She said, just open it to whatever page it opens to, and something there is going to help you. And I remember doing that, and I’m like, why isn’t anything helping me?

GHARIB: Ryan says that her Filipino friends were bumping into the same problem. It was as if their parents were reading from the same script. And it turns out, they kind of were. Stephanie Balon is a Filipino-American youth and family therapist. She’s with the Daly City Youth Health Center in California. She says she hears stories like Ryan’s from her patients all the time.

STEPHANIE BALON: So when there is that disconnect between parents and children, you can imagine how isolating that can be.

GHARIB: One of the problems is that our hardships seem to pale in comparison to the incredible struggle our parents had to go through, leaving their homes to start a brand-new life in America. So it’s understandable why Ryan kept quiet about her feelings. And for years, she dealt with depression and anxiety.

TANEP: I didn’t tell anyone, you know?GHARIB: And when things got really bad, she thought about suicide.TANEP: Not only that but, like, a lot of people I know – one of my ex-boyfriends – him, too. I’ve had friends open up to me, like, this is what I’m going through right now. What do I do?GHARIB: Studies have found that Filipino-Americans have some of the highest rates of depression among Asian-Americans, yet they seek mental health treatment at the lowest rates. E.J. Ramos David is a Filipino-American psychologist at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He says Filipinos don’t […]

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Study: Asians Perceived To Lack Charisma

Study: Asians Perceived To Lack Charisma

Why do we see fewer Asian Americans in senior management positions? In the first study on Asian Americans and perceptions of leadership, researchers found that Asians are seen as having less charisma when compared to their white counterparts — a trait that’s often synonymous with leadership in Western societies. Host Michel Martin discusses the findings of this new study with lead author, Thomas Sy, of the University of California, Riverside.

I’m Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, my weekly Can I Just Tell You commentary. That’s in just a few minutes.

But first, you may have heard the phrase model minority used to describe Asian-Americans. That’s because they are popularly perceived to have strong study and work habits, behave with discipline, and willingly adopt American culture. But that stereotype, favorable as it may seem, is not helpful when it comes to being viewed as leaders.

A new study says that Asian-Americans, when compared with white Americans especially, are thought to be lacking in charisma and thus lacking in leadership ability in business and the board room. And these results may help explain why we see a smaller percentage of Asian-Americans in top management than whites, the researchers say.

To learn more about this study and how the results might be used in real life, we’ve called the lead author of the study, Thomas Sy. He’s an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. And he’s with us from NPR West in Culver City, California. Thanks so much for joining us.

Professor THOMAS SY (University of California Riverside): Thanks for having me, Michel.

MARTIN: So I’m going to ask you to try to explain as simply as you can what was your methodology.

Prof. SY: Sure.

MARTIN: But the basic core question is, is there a stereotype that Asian-Americans are technically competent, but somehow not qualified for the top job?

Prof. SY: That’s a fairly accurate statement.

MARTIN: So how did you go around testing that idea?

Prof. SY: Sure, sure. So we provided them with an evaluation of an employee. This description gives fairly basic information. And all participants get the same type of information. The only thing that we varied was race itself. For our Caucasian counterpart, the description of this employee was John Davis. For our Asian counterpart it was Tung-Sheng Wong. In addition to name, we varied it by providing with demographic information. We literally told them: race, colon, Caucasian or Asian. And a third variable, we actually provide them with a picture. So this picture was either a picture of a Caucasian individual or an Asian individual.

MARTIN: So you surveyed business undergraduates because you were interested in future leaders. But you also surveyed groups of […]

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Kids Bilingual Immersion Gamified Educational Program Chinese English Announced

curaFUN announces its new emotional development and social resiliency subscription program for children in English and Mandarin Chinese. The program helps kids aged four to 11.

curaFUN, a youth-centered organization for native Chinese, American-born Chinese, and overseas Chinese worldwide, announces its gamified subscription programs for emotional development and wellness for children aged four to 11. Subscriptions include interactive activities that teach children social and emotional life skills in both English and Mandarin Chinese.

More details can be found at https://www.curafun.com

The newly announced subscription service aims to develop well-rounded and globally competitive children who are proficient in both English and Mandarin Chinese. The virtual programs use gamified activities and real-life interactions so that children become comfortable in speaking and interacting with their peers in both languages. The activities are offered in English only, Chinese only, and English and Chinese options.

Understanding and speaking in more than one language has many benefits. According to the latest financial reports, bilingual workers earn as much as 20% more than those who can only speak one language. Further, neuroscience research has found that the brains of bilingual and multilingual people have stronger brain connections.

curaFUN developed its emotional wellness games to further the educational programs available for Chinese who want to improve their English skills as well as English speakers wishing to perfect their Chinese. Their programs train children to develop social competency which helps them interact with their friends in either language.

The subscription program features 23 – 30 progressive levels and more than 20 hours of gameplay. The online A.I. powered games cultivate a growth mindset in children, teaching them leadership skills and building their emotional wellness. The program is recommended for children in pre-kindergarten through Grade 5.

curaFUN emphasizes that its program builds on existing educational offerings that are solely focused on building subject-specific knowledge. They say that children need to strengthen both their IQ and EQ to become well-rounded and competent adults.

The program may also have therapeutic benefits in the early detection of ADHD, anxiety, and autism.

“To thrive in life, your child must possess a solid foundation of social-emotional skills that empower them to learn and connect,” the organization writes. “Children also get a head start on leadership insights and negotiation tactics.”

Interested parties can find more information by emailing info@curafun.com or visiting the above-mentioned website.