Understanding Why Some Asian Americans are Reluctant to Seek Treatment for Mental Health Disorders

Overcoming Cultural Barriers to Erase Mental Health Stigmas is Critically Important for Overall Good Health

Wednesday, July 17, 2019 | 6:56 pm

With July being recognized as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s important to shed light on how mental health disorders affect Asian Americans, and why overcoming cultural barriers in identifying symptoms and seeking treatment is crucial for overall good health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Asian Americans report fewer mental health concerns than do whites. However, there are many mental health issues that affect Asian Americans and require medical attention.

Consider the following from the CDC:

• Suicide death rates for Asian American females age 65 and older are higher than they are for white females.
• Among Asian American high school students, 18.9% report considering suicide, compared to 15.5% of whites.
• Suicide death rates are 30% higher for 15-24-year-old Asian American females than they are for white females.
• As for Asian American high school students, 10.8% report having attempted suicide, versus 6.2% among whites.
• Asian American high school females are twice as likely (15%) to have attempted suicide than males (7%).

“Because of cultural and language barriers, many Asian Americans find it difficult to access mental health services,” said Dr. Chih-An Wong with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Furthermore, in several Asian cultures, people are reluctant to discuss mental health concerns. As a result, they tend to disregard, or outright dismiss, clear symptoms that require medical attention.”

According to Mental Health America, approximately 2.2 million people who consider themselves Asian American or Pacific Islander experienced a diagnosable mental illness in 2018. And, although the suicide rate for Asian Americans is half that of the non-Hispanic white population, it stated Asian American students are more likely to attempt suicide than non-Hispanic white students.

Knowing when to seek help

Dr. Wong encourages Asian Americans to overcome cultural barriers and seek treatment for mental health disorders for themselves or their loved ones. “It’s important to fight through stigmas that do exist for cultural reasons, and to share your struggles with someone you trust,” he said. “Taking that first step to seek help is critically important, and will aid you or a loved one in getting well again.”

If mental health is of concern to you, Kaiser Permanente offers the following tips:

• Slowly get back into doing old routines you did when you were feeling better. Ask a family member or friend to push you into taking steps to feel better. For example, get a walking friend to help motivate you to become active once again.

• Disconnect from your smart phone, tablet and computer and connect with real people. As humans, we’re biologically driven to connect with others. Just like you can’t solely live off sweets, our human interactions need to be much more than social media.

• Don’t sacrifice your enjoyment of life while you work on solving an issue of concern elsewhere.

Kaiser Permanente offers additional information on how to better understand mental health.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 12.3 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: https://about.kaiserpermanente.org/




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