The American Psychological Association says Asian American college students had a higher rate of suicidal thoughts than White college students.
MONTEREY PARK, Calif. — The deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park is raising discussion about mental health care and the stigmas and pressures embedded in Asian American Pacific Islander cultures.
“The assumption is they don’t need help when, in fact, they do,” said Cirian Villavicencio, commissioner with the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs.
It can be tied back to what scholars call the “model minority” myth, a tool of white supremacy to pit Asian Americans against Hispanic-Latino and Black Americans.
“When society could say, look at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and they’re succeeding, why can’t you as another minority group can?” said Villavicencio.
He said it ultimatley puts Asian Americans up on a false pedestal.
“Because of this myth, it puts a lot of psychological pressures on our communities to really uphold really these false standards. And as a result, they don’t seek out the necessary treatment that they need – mental health being one of them,” said Villavicencio.
Some members of the AAPI population have bought into that myth. The American Psychological Association says Asian American college students had a higher rate of suicidal thoughts than White college students. The concept of “saving face,” or avoiding humiliation, is also strong in many AAPI cultures.
“We feel that there is stigma, when you take advantage of these services that are offered,” said Villavicencio.
Older adults and new immigrants can also face additional challenges.
“If you look at our older, elderly, more senior first-generation immigrants who don’t speak English, or lack good English skills, they are often times unable to access these services that government offers,” said Villavicencio.
Villavicencio said one way we as a society can address that is to make sure that there is language access for seniors and for first-generation immigrants who’s first language isn’t English.