Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mental Health Disparities – Focus on Asian Americans

By Felicia Wong, M.D.
APA's Division of Diversity and Health Equity works to promote diversity and cultural competence and to eliminate disparities in mental health care. They published a report on Asian Americans and Mental Health that revealed some troubling statistics.
    photo courtesy Bjoern Kommerell
  • While the overall prevalence rate of mental illness is similar or somewhat lower among Asian Americans than whites, Asian Americans are significantly less likely to use mental health services than other populations.
  • Asian Americans are much less likely than whites to report mental health problems to friends or relatives, psychiatrists or other mental health specialists, or to physicians. It has been postulated that shame and stigma figure prominently in the lower utilization rates of Asian American/Pacific Islander (AA/PI) communities.
  • AA/PI’s often consider expression of mental illness a personal weakness and are more likely than Westerners to express emotional distress through physical symptoms.
  • The suicide rates of elderly Asian American women and young Asian American women (15‐24 years old) are significantly higher than that of other women of the same ages.
In an attempt to address the barriers to mental health care that pertain to the Asian American community, I created a website which I hope will dispel some of the misconceptions that the AA/PI community may have about mental health, and will provide information and links that will help raise awareness about the importance of mental health and wellness. Please share this website with those who you feel might find it useful.

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