A number of myths exist in and about the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in regards to mental health.
The first is that the groups that make up this community all have the same views, opinions, and experiences. AAPIs include individuals with roots in countries like India, Korea, and the Philippines, representing vastly different cultures, backgrounds, and worldviews. While this may seem obvious, these groups are often clustered together, in both research and practice, as uniform pieces of the AAPI identity.
Such a definition of this community creates a number of problems, particularly the Myth of the Model Minority. This myth highlights the success some AAPIs have achieved in the United States despite the racism and adversity they faced. Not only does the myth ignore the diversity within the AAPI community, the expectations conveyed in it also allows for misinterpretation of research that shows AAPIs use mental health services far less than others. As AAPIs are expected to succeed, many take this data to mean they experience less psychological distress when the opposite is likely true.
Many, particularly AAPI students, experience large amounts of stress that impacts their mental health but mask this distress due to the expectations placed on them. The source of this stress can come from our society, with the Myth of the Model Minority demanding that AAPI students succeed academically or else be considered an outlier for their group. Often, this requires AAPIs to “overcome” their experiences of racism, discrimination, and bias. However, the stress and expectations can also come from a student’s family, with many AAPI parents insisting their child succeeds academically. Additionally, AAPIs may be unwilling to seek help for the psychological distress caused by this, preferring not to seek support for their struggles in the belief that this would reflect poorly on their families or experiencing shame that they are unable to handle the same difficulties as their parents.
Instead, many choose to “save face” by seeking care for physical symptoms that are the manifestation of their psychological distress, such as migraines, heart pains, or cramps. However, this likely will not provide the necessary care, resulting in a deterioration of mental health.
From here, some may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance use or self-harm, or, in the direst of circumstances, suicide.
To prevent this, it is important to destigmatize mental health so those experiencing psychological distress are comfortable to find support, either professionally or informally. Resources and more information on these topics can be found in the links below: