I’ve been posting lots of mental health facts since it is Mental Health Month, but I thought I should note that May is also Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I’m not quite sure what I need to do in order to celebrate this heritage month. Well, I should point out that there are over 15 million people of Asian descent living in the United States, which makes up about 5% of the population. 5 million of those live in California. More facts can be found here.
Perhaps I should say something that ties in the two commemorative months together….
I know there are only 5% of us in this country. But I think it’s important that those in the psych and medical profession in general have an idea about how to treat people of Asian descent—especially the fact that ‘we’ (I guess I’ll use the term here since I am Asian) are not used to telling pretty much anyone about ourselves. It’s easy to think that we just might be shy or fine, but Asian kids have issues, too. I think it takes patience on the clinician’s part until s/he may be able to make some sort of a diagnosis. It’s hard to admit you’re depressed in a community that expect only the best from you at all times. There’s already a lot of guilt for having even sought out treatment such as this. The last thing we need is for our concerns to be ignored by someone we finally were able to reach out to.
While I could put the responsibility on the doctors, I also think the Asian American community needs to pay attention to the mental health needs of their own community. The culture should foster a more open stance toward those with mental illness and not act as if the problem didn’t exist. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of Asian American girls 15-24. And it’s the highest suicide rate among women of any race or ethnicity for that age group.Obviously, there’s a problem here. I’ve read some people say that we just need more Asian American clinicians who can serve the same community, but I totally disagree. I honestly think that the Asian community willingly plays a role in keeping up with the stereotype that Asian kids are harder working (and maybe smarter) in school. And I remember that I internalized that pressure not simply from other people but from my family. There’s a saying that “Kids sometimes just need to be kids,” and I think Asian kids lose out on being able to be a kid. This problem can’t be solved by putting people of the same ethnicity in the therapist’s chair.
I really hope that someone would take a look at the mental health of Asian Americans since they share this month together.