Mental Health Stigma in Asian American Communities

Angela Wong’s Blueprint for Social Justice seeks to address the social justice issue of Health Equity, specifically relating mental health stigma in Asian American communities. Mental health concerns stem from “pressure to live up to the model minority” stereotype, which portrays Asian Americans as “having overcome the challenges of racial bias” and attaining high levels of educational and financial success (Nishi 2017). With the expectation that they are hardworking, submissive, and independent, Asian Americans are often characterized as the “model minority” (CMHC 2017). Among other contributing factors, this stereotype invalidates the difficulties experienced by Asian Americans. Additionally, due to traditional values in many Asian cultures, it is taboo to openly discuss mental health issues. The juxtaposition of traditional Asian values and widely held stereotypes has effectively silenced Asian Americans’ experiences with mental illness.

Wong’s Blueprint seeks to raise awareness about mental illness within Asian American students, specifically on Georgetown University’s (GU) campus, where Asians comprise 9.2% of the student population. GU is ranked eighth of 25 schools on Newsweek’s Most Stressful Schools list (Fard 2012). Within this type of demanding environment, The aforementioned effects of stereotyping can be even more pronounced within demanding environments, where Asian students are expected to excel academically by both their peers and families. Cindy Ng, associate dean of students at Stanford University, stated that “Asian Americans students are often the least likely to seek out counseling services on campus” (Chen 2015). For students at Georgetown, many services exist to support students dealing with mental health concerns. However, from Wong’s personal experience, mental health remains a stigmatized topic among a majority of Georgetown students. In order to increase the number of Asian American students accessing services, an informational workshop and social media campaign should be held to increase awareness of Asian American-specific experiences. In order to capitalize on the increased attention to Asian issues during Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, this event will be held then.