The Mental Health Cost of Rising AAPI Hate and Trauma: What Can We Do?

This past year has been tumultuous with a global pandemic, police brutality, racial injustice and more. Given that May is Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, as well as Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s important to note that AAPI individuals have not been immune to the racial injustice that has occurred — and it’s affecting their mental health. Hate crimes against AAPI individuals increased by nearly 150% in 2020 despite a decrease in overall hate crimes.

Due to the model minority narrative, AAPI individuals are cast as a high-achieving, “safe” racial group, which in turn minimizes wealth disparities among their demographic. However, this higher level of wealth and integration into society does not necessarily mean AAPI individuals feel assimilated into their communities. The COVID-19 pandemic and xenophobic language utilized by high-level administrators only exacerbated the rise in discrimination and violence against AAPI individuals. As a result, AAPI individuals are facing a mental health crisis.

As studies have shown, unlike the Black community, very few AAPI families have “the talk” about how to prepare to experience racism. Instead, AAPI individuals are often told by their families to keep their head down and work hard, most likely leading them to be three times less likely to seek mental health care than white Americans. In addition, a lack of training in cultural sensitivity has contributed to the stigma.

As we move forward in this time, it’s important to create a space to understand and take in the impact of current events. With education, listening ears and self-care, we can support our AAPI communities in this tumultuous time.

Here are some resources to get involved and support AAPI individuals:

  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) works to advance civil and human rights for AAPI individuals and to build and promote a fair and equitable society.
  • Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON) represents AAPI individuals in the Los Angeles area focusing on low-income, immigrant and other vulnerable populations.
  • Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) advocates for systemic change that protects immigrant rights and promotes language diversity.
  • Stop AAPI Hate is a reporting center started by A3PCON and CAA along with the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University to track and respond to incidences of hate, violence, discrimination and more against AAPI individuals.
  • Asian Mental Health Project aims to educate Pan-Asian communities about mental health, encourage people to identify issues and seek help, create a safe space to share experiences and provide resources that make getting help more accessible.
  • National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association firmly believes that public policies and social justice issues have a direct correlation with mental health, especially within the AAPI community. They provide programs and resources focused on suicide prevention among AAPI youth, empowering mental health consumers, and providing access to high-quality, affordable mental health services for all.
  • South Asian Mental Health Initiative & Network provides educational programs on the importance of mental health and wellness and improved access to care for the South Asian community which includes people with origins in one of seven South Asian Countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Maldives.

In addition, here are more helpful resources for anyone seeking support: