- Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center, has documented over 3,800 cases of violence and hate against the Asian community since March 2020.
- Violence and anti-Asian hate negatively impact the physical and mental wellbeing of those attacked.
- AAPI mental health experts share that there are resources available specifically for the Asian community to get mental health help right now.
From repeated attacks on Asian elders to the more recent shooting that left six Asian women in Atlanta dead, violence against the Asian community has escalated over the past year.
Since March 2020, STOP AAPI Hate, a reporting center launched by San Francisco State University, Chinese Affirmative Action, and Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, has recorded over 3,800 cases of anti-Asian hate. Due to the uptick in violence and hate against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, AAPI-identifying mental health experts are sharing how racism has impacted the mental health of the community.
“Let’s just say that the Atlanta shooting was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Jeanie Y. Chang, LMFT, CMHIMP, CCTP, licensed clinician and AAPI mental health expert, tells Get Meds Info. “People were already experiencing quite an amount of distress, racial trauma, and post-traumatic stress since the start of COVID.”
A Spike in Hate
Over the past year, the U.S. has seen a rise in hate and attacks against the AAPI community, amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Politicians have repeatedly stressed China’s connection to the pandemic on the global stage, including former President Donald Trump who repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus.” This kind of normalized, racist rhetoric has led to the kind of attacks we’re now seeing nationwide, though this is not a new issue.
Being subject to racism not only causes bodily injury and harm toward communities of color but also impacts mental health and overall wellbeing. “I observed, especially last year, when COVID was happening, huge trends of insomnia, anxiety, feelings of depression, and hysteria,” Clarice Hassan, LCSW, a licensed therapist practicing in New York, tells Get Meds Info about her AAPI clients.
Hassan herself also experienced anti-Asian racism during the pandemic. “This lady walked to me and started asking me, ‘Are you from Wuhan?'” Hassan says. “My first reaction was being scared.” Many AAPI individuals report experiencing similar aggressions.
While much of the anti-Asian hate the nation has been witnessing recently has been physical, racism has a long history of also being perpetuated in non-physical ways. Hassan shares that many of her clients have previously been asked to change their names to Anglo-Saxon versions due to pronunciation. “These kinds of microaggressions are happening everywhere,” Hassan says. “After the horrendous shooting, we’re going to see an increase in people seeking professional help.”
When people are experiencing trauma or a mental health condition, Chang stresses that they may feel socially isolated and alone. “Isolation can really perpetuate traumatic symptoms,” Chang explains. Therefore, talking through these issues with others or even in therapy can be a starting point for AAPI people to begin to heal from racial trauma.
What This Means For You
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health amidst an uptick in anti-Asian violence, you can find mental health providers to help at the Bridges directory or the Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American Therapist directory. If you need immediate help, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Barriers to Mental Health Care
Due to cultural factors, seeking mental health help within the Asian community is not always easy.
“Stigma comes from generations of AAPIs that feel like they [don’t deserve] to be healthy and have misunderstood what professional help means,” Chang explains, touching upon the model minority myth that has followed the AAPI community for decades. The idea that Asian people are “models” of society and therefore don’t require help or assistance can prevent some Asian people from accessing professional mental health care.
Not everyone may feel comfortable accessing professional help, so Chang shares that getting in touch with your close circle and community can also be a huge part of the healing process. “It’s not easy in our community to just go and seek a therapist,” Chang says. “So it’s important if you feel like you’re not ready for professional help, then seek your social support network, your family, and friends.”
Mental Health Resources for the AAPI Community
If you have been experiencing grief, anger, or emotional numbness from the attacks against AAPI people, Chang recommends paying attention to your emotions, acknowledging them, and seeking professional help.
Chang and Hassan both outline resources available to help AAPI people find a therapist or seek funding for mental health care.
Asian Mental Health Collective
The collective is a non-profit organization with a mission to normalize and destigmatize mental health within the Asian community. It offers the APISAA Therapist Directory, a directory that connects people to mental health providers based on where you live in the United States.
Pacific Southwest Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network (MHTTC)
Pacific Southwest MHTTC is offering an AAPI listening session for AAPI providers to share their experiences with one another in a safe and supportive space. Participants will have the opportunity to grieve, find strength in solidarity, and develop calls to action for themselves, their communities, and the U.S. The event takes place on March 25 at 4 p.m. PT. AAPI providers can register here.
Free Asian Pacific Islander Workshop
Sheela Ivlev, MS, OTR/L, a wellness-based occupational therapist and certified mental health integrative medicine provider, is hosting a free workshop for the API community. She will break down health risks for API folks, how to advocate for better care, and how traditional foods and practices can help maintain health. The workshop will take place on March 28 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT. To join, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A stigma-free mental health hub for Asian Pacific Islander South Asian Americans in New York City, Bridges helps facilitate psychotherapists and mental health providers through their clinician directory. They also offer a list of therapists offering remote and tele-therapy during COVID-19. You can visit the directory here. In addition to the directory, Bridges connects people to resources via their resources tab on their website.
AAPI Journalists Therapy Relief Fund
Organized by Sonia Weiser in collaboration with the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), the AAPI Journalists Therapy Relief Fund seeks to provide funding to AAPI journalists for therapy and mental health resources. People can donate to the fund here or sign up to receive funds here.