Asian Canadian Mental Health Stigma

asian mental health
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What is Mental Health Stigma?

Negative attitudes and beliefs toward people who have mental health struggles.

Utilization of Mental Health Resources in Asian Canadian Community

In Canada, both first-generation Asian Canadians and second-generation Canadians are less likely to use mental health services than Caucasian Canadians. Some reasons include language barriers for first-generation Asian Canadians; many don’t speak fluent English or at least can’t talk about their mental health in English. Also, some people tend to describe mental health challenges as physical discomfort, particularly first-generation Asian Canadians. Moreover, due to the lack of culturally appropriate mental health care, it can be very challenging to find Asian therapists or mental health professionals with Asian cultural competency; many people with Asian backgrounds find it easier to express themselves and feel more comfortable working with an Asian therapist.

Causes of Mental Health Stigma for Asian Canadians

Fear of Disability

Many people automatically associate any mental health challenges with severe disability.

Some Cultural Ideas

Having mental health struggles means weakness and inability to handle life challenges; sharing with people outside of the family is leaking family secrets and humiliates the family. The need to save face!

Pursuing academic excellence, becoming a highly skilled professional (e.g., doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc.), and making a good amount of money regardless of the emotional, social, or physical toll.

Hiding emotions to avoid being seen as “too emotional” or a complainer, because that is a sign of immaturity.

Previous generations suffered worse circumstances or trauma, so it is shameful that younger generations share their struggles knowing that others survived “much more.” Therefore, the younger generations are just too fragile to handle things.

There is no such thing as “mental health”; it is more of lacking strong willpower or just an excuse for laziness. Mental illness does not exist or impact older people or their communities.

The younger generation should be grateful because of the sacrifices made for them; therefore, they shouldn’t complain anymore.

Witnessing mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and trauma in family members, but being encouraged to stay silent because it is the family secret.

Model Minority Myth

It enforces the idea that all Asian Canadians are smart, wealthy, hard-working, submissive, and never need assistance. It puts unrealistic pressure on our community.

A Lack of Mental Health Education and Awareness

When it is coupled with negative stereotypes, it may cause Asian Canadians to overlook, reject, deny, or ignore mental health symptoms. They may also be more likely to assume mental illness is related to poor parenting or a genetic flaw passed down from parents. This can discourage people with mental health concerns, or their families, from seeking outside help to avoid being labelled as defective or damaged.

How to Reduce Mental Health Stigma?

Learning other people’s experiences of mental health struggles, normalizing it and realizing that it is a common human experience (e.g., Bell Let’s Talk, Bring Change to Mind, or Google serach “celebrity mental health”).

Engaging positively with people who experience mental health conditions, such as volunteering at mental health organizations (e.g., Hong Fook Mental Health Association, Canadian Mental Health Association).

Learning mental health knowledge, such as reading self-help books and visiting mental health website (e.g., <Maybe You Should Talk to Someone>, Psych Central and Psychology Today).

Click here to have a 10-minute free phone consultation with Dr. Houyuan Luo, a registered counselling/clinical psychologist in Toronto, Ontario. Dr. Luo is a Chinese/Asian Canadian psychologist.

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