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For Many In California’s AAPI Community, Finding Mental Health Support Is Hard

A man and woman strain to touch each other but are separated by an amorphous, see-through barrier in this illustration.
Finding mental health support can sometimes be difficult while facing "invisible" cultural barriers.
(Alborz Kamalizad
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A new report sheds light on barriers Asian Americans (AA), Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) face when seeking mental health care in California.

Roughly a quarter of AA and NHPI respondents said they experienced difficulty in accessing mental health services. Those difficulties were most pronounced for residents of Southeast Asian origin, with 37% reporting hardship in accessing mental health care.

Among AA and NHPI participants, nearly 70% cited “not knowing options” as the reason they had difficulty in getting mental health treatment.

“This report really is a plea to our institutions and our government that our communities are hurting, dying and enough is enough,” said Nkauj lab Yang, Executive Director for the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs.

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The report, done in collaboration with the group AAPI Data, builds on findings from UCLA’s 2021 California Health Interview Survey and roughly 1,600 follow-on surveys conducted last year.

Mental Health Resources for AAPI Community

If you need help

“Even More Fragile”

Michi Fu, a licensed psychologist practicing in Monterey Park, said she and her coworkers had an outreach booth set up for the Lunar New Year Festival in front of Star Dance Studio. They had to go back the morning after the deadly mass shooting to retrieve their company’s belongings since the festival was canceled.

“The mental health of our communities was already under attack and now it’s even more fragile,” Fu told LAist.

Fu said the tragic impact of the recent mass shootings in California is that now there is a sense of safety being compromised from within her own community.

“That these violent attacks really can happen anywhere and be inflicted by anyone,” she said.

According to the report from AAPI Data, 46% of Asian American teens in California are worried about being shot by a firearm.

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In light of their new report, AAPI Data recommends, among other things, creating more community-based mental health services, building language access capacity and investing in culturally competent care.

Myron Quon, CEO of Pacific Asian Counseling Services, told LAist there are major gaps when it comes to accessible mental health services for the older AAPI demographic.

Howard Liu, Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the echoes of the mass shooting in Monterey Park will be here for years to come and that it would be important to build up a culturally competent mental health workforce.

“I think it’s really a longer term campaign we have to have to make sure this is not just swept under the rug and then another bad thing happens, but really making sure we invest in that access,” Liu said.

What questions do you have about mental health in SoCal?
One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.

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