Depression in the Asian-American community
Written by Dr. Jason Ahn
Mental health and depression continue to be a big problem in the Asian American community. Though there are limited epidemiologic studies and interventions that specifically address the cultural needs of the Asian-American population, we do know that:
Suicide was the 8th leading cause of death among Asian-Americans compared to the 11th leading cause of death for all racial groups combined
13% of the Asian-American community had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year
The prevalence of depression ranges from 4.5% to 11.3% in the Asian-American population
The prevalence of depressive symptoms was 35.6% in the Asian-American community
Asian-American teenage girls have the highest rate of depressive symptoms compared to any other racial, ethnic or gender group
Asian-Americans face cultural and linguistic barriers to accessing culturally appropriate mental health care. Close to one out of two Asian-Americans have difficulty in accessing mental health treatment because of language barriers. Asian-Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services compared to other U.S. populations.
A study by the National Asian Women’s Health Organization (NAWHO) reveals that Asian-American women remain silent though they witness depression in their families. Furthermore, while they feel stigma for themselves, they feel it more for their families.
In my own experience, I learned of a suicide that affected one of the families in my home community. It was a sad happening and we expressed our condolences. I expected there to be more discussion around the suicide and ways to address mental health issues in our community, but there was little dialogue regarding the available resources or lack thereof. The stigma and the silence was palpable. We carried on with our lives. I couldn’t help but think that community education and engagement and access to culturally appropriate behavioral health support services might have prevented this tragic suicide.
Medical providers can be the only touch point for Asian-Americans with mental illnesses and we have an obligation to identify and provide behavioral health services for our community. By integrating physical medicine and behavioral health, Equality Health is leading the way in removing cultural barriers that prevent minority communities such as the Asian-American community from accessing culturally appropriate care—including mental health services. And
it’s one of the ways Equality Health is creating the new culture of care.
Kim et al, 2015. Depression among Asian-American Adults in the Community: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis