Medcom Blog

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Let’s Talk About AAPI Mental Health

May is Asian American/Pacific Islander Heritage Month which means, if you’re not a member of that group, it’s time to work on educating yourself on the major problems this group faces, their heritage, and what you can do to help. It’s also Mental Health Awareness month, meaning it’s also a great time to educate yourself on mental health issues, specifically the struggles that AAPIs experience in the U.S.

According to the Census and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 15% of the AAPI population reported having a mental illness in the past year. That’s over 2.9 million people. The same study found that from 2008 to 2018, severe mental illness rose from 47,000 to 136,000 in AAPIs aged 18-25.

AAPIs experience many problems that other racial groups may not face or understand. This group often deals with a concept called “model minority myth.” It’s a microaggression, also known as the “ascription of intelligence,” where other people will assign intelligence to you based on your race. In addition, this group also faces the “perpetual foreigner” stereotype where someone assumes, based on race, that you are not native to the United States or that English isn’t your first language. This can make AAPIs feel like they don’t belong, even where they’re from, which can significantly impact their sense of self. According to Mental Health America, Asian Americans are the least likely racial group to take action on their mental health. The increased demand paired with the limited availability of linguistically and culturally appropriate mental health service providers also creates a barrier to accessing treatment.

Expectations are placed on AAPIs because of their race and/or ethnicity. First-generation immigrants often experience trauma that can be passed down through generations. They endure stigmas that other groups don’t have to.

The pandemic has not made it easy either, especially for Asian Americans. This is a critical time to not only address mental health issues brought about by COVID-19 but also to rebuild our health care system and address systemic changes long overdue. There is so much more to be said on this topic, and that’s why it’s crucial to educate yourself, especially if you’re someone who is not affected. If you are someone affected by this, we have resources linked at the end of this post.

At Medcom, we work to hire people of all races and ethnicities and make everyone feel included. We are consistently looking for ways to prioritize the mental health of our employees through counseling, training, and other free or low-cost efforts.

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If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health: