AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Heritage Month & Mental Health Month

AAPI is Asian American Pacific Islander & May is AAPI Heritage Month

AAPI falls in May because of several historical milestones, including the 1843 arrival of the first Japanese immigrants and Chinese laborers' large contribution to building the transcontinental railroad which finished in May 1869.  AAPI communities consist of more than 50 ethnic groups speaking many different languages and different practices or religion. There's a large range of different lived experiences, like migrations, war, environments, and more.

During the pandemic, hate towards Asian Americans rose. Many of the COVID-19 names made up, like the "kung-flu" were rooted in racism and have resulted in indiscriminate violence against Asian Americans. In a 2017 report, only 20.2% of US Asian Adults received mental health services in the past year.   AAPI individuals are less likely than other racial groups to seek mental health treatment, like inpatient care, outpatient care, or prescription medications. 

 Digging Deep into mental health stigma

AAPI cultures are diverse and unique. Therefore, everyone's mental health experiences are different in various communities. Not every AAPI culture and mental health experiences should not be stereotyped or grouped into a single race or ethnicity. 

Asian Americans are the least likely to seek mental health care. Compared to the national population, only 9% sought mental health care. There is hesitation about seeking mental healthcare due to stigma, shame and beliefs. Many AANHPI may have experienced historical or generational trauma, which has an impact on their mental wellbeing. There's a lack of education on the signs, and symptoms of mental health conditions. Mental health can be overlooked, rejected, denied or even ignored in each individual community. For instance, older generations of AANHPI do not have much knowledge about mental health but often mental health could manifest into psychosomatic symptoms. Psychosomatic is a connection between the mind and body, these illnesses are real, not the same as hypochondria. Psychosomatic symptoms are physical symptoms usually have no medical explanation and can be a result of a stressful event, like trauma, lower socioeconomic status, anxiety, depression, chronic or terminal illness, racism, or a mental condition. Factors that influence the mental health stigma can be encouraging individuals to hide their emotions, fear of stigma and stigmatization of their family, traditional gender roles and obligations, biased family and societal standards, being labeled as "crazy", or a disability and the idea that mental illness does not exist or impacts the AANHPI community.

 Factors to Stigma

Generational Trauma

The transference of traumatic experiences or stressors from one generation to the next. Many factors contribute to generational trauma like war, oppression, cultural dislocation, intergenerational poverty, lack of opportunity, in utero exposure, racism, or sexism. Generational trauma has lasting consequences for whole families and communities for generations. Trauma symptoms can manifest as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, self-harm, and relationship issues.

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“Minority Model” Myth

This myth places an idealized notion that can lead to stressful expectations that emphasizes the obligation of AAPI individuals to "keep face" or protect the reputation of an individual or the family. The "model minority" myth was rooted during the civil rights movement to weaponize Asian Americans against Black Americans. This myth hides many disparities that many AANHPI go through and reduces individuals from seeking help. When American AAPI speak up, their experiences are often dismissed.

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Stoicism can be common among AAPI communities. Stoicism is seeing enduring hardships without complaints as a virtue - common characteristic across. However, this can cause Asian Americans to "resist seeking out relief until the suffering becomes intolerable, we end up experiencing undue agony". This contributes to mental health as it affects the allostatic load of the body. 

"As an individual from the Hmong community, stoicism aligns quite well with the Hmong phrase "ua siab ntev" - which means to be patient. The overall meaning is to endure and tolerate. However, this behavior often results in unhealthy coping mechanisms, and furthers mental, behavioral and physical stresses." -Shoua Vang, MPH Public Health Specialist at Greenfield Health Department


Mental Health Resouces 

  • Safe Greenfield
    • (414) 329-5275
    • SafeGreenfield.com
  •  24/7 National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP
  • Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: dial 988
  • Local resources and social services: 211
  • Never Use Alone Hotline: 1-800-484-3731
  • LGBTQIA+ Crisis Lifeline: text 'START' to 678-678 or 1-866-488-7368
  • 24/7 Narcan Vending Machine: Greenfield Law Enforcement Center: 5300 W Layton Ave.