May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Cultural Heritage Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. As a cultural psychiatrist working with underrepresented communities, Farha Abbasi Recognize the interconnectivity of both.
Mr. Abasi is an assistant professor at the university.PsychiatryHe holds a PhD from the University of Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and is chairman of the Mayor of Lansing, Michigan’s Mental Health Action Committee. Below, she describes the unique challenges her AAPI community faces.
What do you think are the most important mental health issues related to Asian Americans today?
The stigma surrounding mental illness remains the biggest barrier to getting timely treatment. On the one hand, resource utilization rates are among the lowest in Asian communities, although the burden of disease has increased disproportionately. Mental health literacy is very limited. And there is a lack of culturally appropriate resources.
Unfortunately, another source of prejudice is the lack of trained people of color in these specialties. Mental health workers of color are being forced to carry heavy burdens that lead to intense burnout and compassionate exhaustion.
Young Asian Americans have the highest suicide rate compared to Americans of the same age. Why is this happening and what is being done about it?
Faced with this problem, very little has been done about it. We don’t take mental health seriously in these communities.
The reason is more complicated. Some of these are also highly patriarchal societies, putting great pressure on women and girls, especially when it comes to intergenerational trauma. Women carry the burden of war, displacement, migration, employment and childbirth.
There are many deep-seated issues such as perfectionism, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. We pay a heavy price to be a “model minority.” Children are treated like trophies, not humans. You cannot fail or stumble.
What issues do you see in the AAPI community that you don’t see in other communities?
American society is a very independent and individualistic society, where the pursuit of happiness is self-centered, whereas in Asian cultures the pursuit of happiness is interpreted as caring for parents, children and family. When we are told to be selfless, we forget. we cease to be ourselves. Also, we now know that this intergenerational trauma is not only present in the mind, but also in the body. We now know that genes can change, making the next generation more susceptible to multiple diseases and cancers.
I now focus more on intergenerational trauma. This trauma, which we never acknowledged, has a profound effect on our young people. Immigrant trauma, refugee trauma, the Vietnam War, Hiroshima. . . We need to recognize how these events have affected current generations of Asians and their role in America. These are complex issues with layers of untreated trauma.
And now, the country is experiencing increasing xenophobia, rising hate crimes, and fear of becoming victims of violence.
What are the avenues to advance mental health promotion for underrepresented groups, especially in the AAPI community?
In our work with the Muslim community, we have focused on four pillars that apply to all groups. My first goal has always been to raise awareness of what mental health is, why we need it, why it matters, and why we should invest in it. The second is acceptance. That is, acceptance when you cite statistics and say, “In America, he’s one in four.” . ”—that includes us. It includes South Asians, Muslims, all faith communities, and Latinos.
And then there’s access. If you find out you have depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, what next? Where to go? How will care be delivered? Cultural differences, language barriers, lack of culturally appropriate care and a culturally trained workforce, and fear of being misunderstood make access difficult. It becomes difficult. So why contact your provider if you don’t feel understood?
This is why the fourth pillar is advocacy. Those who make these policies know very little about these vulnerable people. This is where disconnection occurs and the system becomes unreliable. How do we bridge that gap? To do so, you need to be in these arenas.
We need to be more politically aware and involved. We need to know what legislation is out there and how it will affect us.
Please tell us more about our approach to this issue.
There is a saying, “You can’t boil the sea.” He cannot do all parts of this work alone. That’s why I try to find and connect with allies and stakeholders doing similar work so that we can strengthen each other’s work.
One of the important things we’ve done in our community is getting faith leaders involved in this conversation. During his 15th Anniversary Muslim Mental Health Conference at MSU, we gave 50 Imams First Aid Mental Health by offering scholarships and transportation to bring them to the table. have trained
There is a lot of research going on in the Muslim community now, but when I started this research, the research had not been translated and had no impact on the general public. There was no effort to address it at the street level. This annual conference has played a major role in bridging this gap.
Today, for the first time in the history of our residency program, we have six residents working closely with the Asian community. For example, here in Michigan, in our Hmong community, there are Hmong people who are committed to mental health awareness.
What do you want people to know and think about?
We really need to talk about the consequences of not addressing mental health issues and the impact it’s having on communities across the country. We need to break this silence and make our voices heard. We are in a mental health crisis and visibility is key to survival.