Asian Americans have experienced an increase in mental health struggles, especially throughout the pandemic. Despite this uptick, reports show that they are three times less likely to seek out care than white Americans in the United States.
While awareness of mental health is increasing globally, for the Asian American community, mental health issues being seen as inconsequential is rooted within the culture. Back in Asia, mental health issues aren’t taken seriously. In India, for example, my hometown, people would laugh if anyone claimed to take a “mental health break.” In Confucianism, an East Asian tradition, declining mental health is seen as an inability to care for other people, taking away from a person’s purpose in life, and therefore, is viewed as the ultimate shame.
However, Asian cultures aren’t the only ones at fault. Surveys show that Asian Americans also feel an intense amount of pressure to keep up with the “model minority” stereotype, a group who is idealized as intelligent and persistently working hard. They feel pressure to keep up with this stereotype or be close to perfect, causing them to believe that declining mental health would be viewed as a weakness.
The unhealthy trend of ignoring mental health struggles requires attention as many are suffering in silence and isolation. They either dismiss their own problems or feel like there will be no one to listen to if they do open up. Kids’ parents ignore their childrens’ problems and refuse to take them to a professional. Unfortunately, Asian Americans disregarding their mental health results in serious ramifications.
For example, going to an academically rigorous high school consisting of 96% Asians, I am surrounded by students going through similar struggles. Academic pressure from parents and peers takes a heavy toll on students who are unable to reach out for help fearing that their struggle isn’t legitimate. They often fall into depression, resort to illegal drugs, and in worst cases, attempt suicide.
This must be stopped.
We must break the myths around mental health and prove to all cultures that mental health struggles are important to address. We must discuss the causes, types and solutions to mental health issues through doctors, teachers, social media and any other possible means. The more we talk about mental health like any other physical health condition, the more open and comfortable Asian Americans will become to address it.