No Shame Day: Destigmatizing Mental Illness in Communities of Color

[trigger warning]

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Across the board among minority groups in the US, stigmas surrounding mental health and treatment are much greater than they are for whites. So, while July is almost over, I hope this is only the beginning of the Asian American community and other minority communities championing a shame-free discussion about our mental health.

Check out this article about the author’s experience living with mental illness as an Asian American person, and reflections about participating in the project No Shame Day, an international day for people worldwide to share their stories of mental illness and treatment openly. No Shame Day is part of a larger project to destigmatize mental illness and promote mental health education for people of African descent worldwide.

The article also has some really sobering statistics about the disproportionate effects of mental illness and stigma in Asian American communities, as well as a call for understanding, rather than snap judgments, from others about the cultural stigmas in these communities:

I think people who aren’t familiar with what it’s like to be Asian can be quick to assume that someone raised with such notions about mental illness was raised by the most unkind, uncaring, unfeeling wolves. I’ve met plenty of mental health care professionals who’ve jumped to that assessment. In my case, it wasn’t true. But I did inherit cultural values from my parents that they inherited from their parents that they inherited and so on and so forth that did not teach me how to live with depression.

And I’m not alone. In study after study, researchers have revealed the devastating effects of cultural stigmas–and other barriers to treatment–on the mental health of our community. Some un-fun facts:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Asian Americans ages 15-34 [link]
  • Asian American teen girls have the highest rates of depression across race and gender [link]
  • Asian American women ages 15-24 have the highest rates of suicide among all races in that age group. [link]
  • Asian American women over the age of 65 have the highest rates of suicide among all races in that age group [link]
  • Asian Americans are almost two times less likely to seek mental health treatment than the general population [link]
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