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How mental health stigmas impact AAPI communities

Cultural and social attitudes toward mental health can have devastating effects on individuals, their families, and their communities.

HOUSTON — Mental health stigmas affect all ethnicities, cultures, and nationalities.

In the Asian American community, cultural and social attitudes toward mental health can have devastating effects on individuals, their families, and their communities.

“How long can you hold back, depression, anxiety, pain grief and make that a life well-lived?” Dr. Jenny Wang, a Houston psychologist, often asks this question to her patients – many of whom are Asian American.

The stigma surrounding mental health in this community, she says, has deep roots.

“There is a sense that we need to hide our struggles and hide our vulnerabilities – and perhaps, our pain – so that it doesn’t bring upon a sense of shame or embarrassment to our communities,” says Dr. Wang.

But the ability to do that was tested during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nonprofit Asian American-Pacific Islander Equity Alliance documented more than 10,000 reports of “hate incidents” against Asian people in America.

Everything from verbal harassment to refusal of service, property damage, assaults, and even murder.

The March 2021 shooting at an Atlanta spa that left several dead, including 6 Asian women, was believed to be racially motivated.

But Dr. Wang says the silver lining in the rise of violence, was that it forced many to address their mental health.

“It’s very hard to admit we are struggling, but what is the silence costing us?” she asks.

KHOU 11 Anchor Rekha Muddaraj will moderate a discussion on this topic with Dr. Jenny Wang on Thursday, May 5th at Asia Society Houston. Tickets are available on Asia Society's website.