Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mental Health: Asian Americans suffer in silence

ASIAN/AMERICANS suffering from mental illnesses are less likely to seek help than other ethnic groups. In fact, compared to Euro/Americans they are three times less likely to seek mental health services.

Much of this reluctance among Asian/Americans is attributed to the social stigma associated with mental problems.

According to Dr. Kevin Nadal, president of the Asian American Psychological Association and professor at John Jay College in New York, many Asian-American families hold a "notion of shame and stigma" around mental illness and that "bringing shame to one's family can be especially detrimental to a person's mental health."

CBS Evening News Uncharted: State of Mind" is a new five-part digital series airing in May with new episodes released every Wednesday. This month, the series will examine the state of mental health care in America in conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month. More than 43 million Americans suffer from mental illness. The third installment of the series deals with mental illness within the AAPI community.

The online episode focuses on a Chinese/American woman named Sara (She didn't want to divulge her last name.)
Suffering from depression, a victim of bullying and molested by a relative, she attempted suicide more than once. She was in and out of hospitals as a result. "I hated my life, I hated myself," she said.
Looking back, she attributed the reluctance of her family to seek assistance to the social stigma and shame that mental illness could bring to the family.
Nadal says that the Asian/American community sometimes turns a "blind eye to things like sexual assault," domestic violence and child abuse because of shame or stigma.

Watching her daughter go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, Sara's mother finally sought professional help. In her late teens, Sara was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. She was dealing with symptoms like hallucinations, auditory delusions, paranoia and depression all at once.
But with intense therapy and a search for the right medication, Sara began to get better. 
"Medication gave me my life back. If I didn't take medication I'd probably be dead," she said.

For Sara, hope is what keeps her fighting to survive.
Besides the social stigma associated with mental health, these are some other reasons API are reluctant to seek help:
  • AAPI don't see mental illness as treatable. They tend think that inner reflection will cure any emotional and mental distress. Most of all, they believe, don't tell anyone outside the family.
  • Language barriers and a lack of providers who understand Asian cultures contribute to that disparity. 
  • In Asia, mental illnesses are less likely to be treated as medical conditions, according to Mariko Kahn, the executive director of Pacific Asian Counseling Services. 
  • Many Asian languages have no words to describe mental illness, except words with negative connotations.
If you're having suicidal thoughts or know someone that is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK. For Asian language services from the Asian American Suicide Prevention and Education, call 1-877-990-8585.

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