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  • Isara Moriya

Mindfull X Shield - Barriers Confronting Mental Health for Asian Americans

Mental health is a sensitive topic worldwide, but it is slowly gaining attention and advocacy through the media. However, especially with the general Asian American population, speaking up about mental health is not the norm and may often be frowned upon. 

According to UCLA Health, Asian Americans are 50% less likely to seek mental health services compared to other racial groups. In another study cited by the American Psychology Association, “only 8.6 percent of Asian-Americans sought any type of mental health services or resources compared to nearly 18 percent of the general population nationwide.” Yet, Asian Americans have a  “17.30 percent overall lifetime rate of any psychiatric disorder.”

Some common sources of stress and the negative effects on mental health include…

  • parental pressure to succeed academically

  • how speaking about mental health is generally considered taboo

  • the denial, dismissal, or neglect of symptoms

  • pressure to live up to the "model minority" stereotype (a view that inaccurately portrays Asian Americans as successfully integrating into mainstream culture and having overcome the challenges of racial bias, being financially and academically successful)

  • strong traditional and cultural values and familial obligations

  • difficulty and discrimination being a part of two different cultures


However, studies show that the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community’s mental health concerns vary with different races. For example, a study published on PLOS ONE found that 33% of Korean American adults experienced symptoms of depression, and 16% of Chinese Americans had similar experiences. On the contrary, 78% of Filipino Americans rate their mental health as “excellent or very good.” Furthermore, second-generation Asian Americans show worse mental health compared to immigrant Asian American individuals. Therefore, it is not accurate to group and generalize AAPI community members. Based on different past experiences and cultural backgrounds, Asian Americans have different mental health conditions.

Instead of Clinical Help

Instead of seeking medical and professional help, many young Asian Americans go to people they are close to such as friends, family members, and religious communities. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health observed that the biggest reason participants were deterred from seeking professional help was the social stigma surrounding mental health issues. Some other barriers included language barriers and the lack of awareness of resources. 


The UCLA Health article recognizes there are cultural barriers within clinical settings and ways. For example, in America, there is a distinct emphasis on patient privacy, even from their family. However, Asian Americans in general have less of a divide between the individual and family. Additionally, the financial burden of mental health care prevents families from seeking professional help. The lack of AAPI psychiatrists and psychologists further makes it difficult for Asian Americans to approach mental health help. 

Equipping services that are familiar to Asian American and Pacific Islander patients, such as acupuncture and Japanese herbal remedies, may help patients feel more comfortable seeking mental health support. This is supported by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

The Good and Where It Is Today

The negative view on mental health talks is deeply rooted in cultural and social norms. On the other hand, multiracial individuals have unique experiences that change the way they approach mental health. However, multiracial individuals are not so unique that they cannot find support systems that understand their experiences to a degree. Many Asian Americans and more broadly the members of the AAPI community find comfort in their close friends and relatives. Celebrities part of the AAPI community are sharing their mental health experiences through social media, giving individuals assurance, comfort, and a voice. The mental health scene is looking bright for the Asian American and AAPI community. 

Writer: Isara Moriya




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