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Among Asian-American families, stigma still grips mental illnesses

Veronica Grech/Getty Images

There is a silent killer that is still looming in the Asian-American community.

There is a silent killer that is still looming in the Asian-American community. Asian-Americans are three times less likely to seek medical care for mental illnesses than Whites according to the American Psychological Association. Even back in 2007 suicide was the second leading cause of death for Asian Americans aged 15-34. 

With the constant clash of mainstream American values and ethnic culture, many Asian-Americans especially women choose “hiding up” as their coping mechanism to avoid confrontation with their families and hope that doing nothing will one day rid their mental illness. Depression and other mental illnesses come with a stigma in the Asian-American community. There is deeply rooted shame and fear when coming into terms with these issues. For parents, many simply do not know how to address these issues and acknowledge that their child has a mental illness. For Asian-Americans who suffer from mental illnesses, pressures of perfectionism and high expectations from their families contribute to the cyclical nature of hiding up. 

If you are Asian-American or a person of color, have you ever experienced depression or been diagnosed with a mental illness and had a difficult time communicating that to your family? What were some of the pressures that held you back from saying anything? And if you did communicate with them, how did they take action to remedy the issue? Give us a call at 866-893-5722 and share your experience with us.   

If you are in need of support, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, for free and confidential help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

With guest host Libby Denkmann.


Amanda Rosenberg, a freelance writer based in San Francisco; she wrote the article,“Hiding my mental illness from my Asian family almost killed me”; she tweets @AmandaRosenberg

Sarah Jin, marriage and family therapist in Pasadena who specializes in working with Asian-American clients

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