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After Atlanta-area attacks, Asian communities reckon with mental health crises

Marissa Evans, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

Nearly 44% of Asian Americans who had a past-year major depressive episode received treatment for it, according to the 2018 federal National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are most at risk for PTSD from the traumas of genocide, war and assimilating to resettlement in the U.S., according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A report released last week by the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center found that 29% of respondents faced challenges due to an insufficient understanding of mental health services and how to navigate the mental health system.

Survey participants said they care most about someone understanding their cultural values, roles and expectations, a welcoming environment and an understanding of their community's history.

Diec said younger generations are "cultural brokers" between older adults and the mental health system, helping them make appointments, research therapists and receive care.

She said Asian American and Pacific Islander communities revolve around family and the collective community, making mental health — often treated individually — a challenging subject to broach because it's not seen as "necessary or really worthy of talking about."

In 2019, there were 4,887 Asian psychologists across the U.S., making up just 4% of the workforce, according to a report from the American Psychological Assn.

 

Yoon had to find a therapist for her mom in 2019 when she was experiencing depression. Her mother speaks Korean and finding a therapist in San Diego who speaks the same language was challenging. Given her background, Yoon said she did the therapist consultations and made the appointments.

Yoon said it's common to see young Asian people asking for a consultation or making appointments on behalf of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

"Because of their generation, therapy wasn't even an option, they didn't think about it," Yoon said. "They're still hesitant, so younger people are trying to bring that idea to their parents."

To meet the increased need of the community, Yoon and her staff initially offered two free support groups after the Atlanta-area shootings. They filled up quickly. The practice is hosting a workshop for Asian parents on how to talk about anti-Asian racism with their children and a support group for Asian American teens.

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