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Dealing With a Taboo Problem in Asian Community

Asian American girls have the highest rates of depressive symptoms of any racial/ethnic or gender group, according to a study released last month by the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Asian Americans are at a high risk for many other mental health issues — including higher rates of suicide deaths among young women and older women in the Asian community.

California has the largest Asian American population in the nation, by far. A conference is being convened today in Los Angeles to address the issue.

“The quality of mental health care provided to ethnic minority groups is inadequate,” conference keynote speaker Stanley Sue said. “There is a paucity of research, especially rigorous research such as clinical trials, on treatment outcomes for ethnic minority groups.”

Last month’s study suggested Asian and Pacific Islanders tend to be healthier than whites and other ethnic groups. The biggest disparity those ethnic groups face is when seeking mental health services in their communities. And that goes beyond the heightened sense of stigma around mental health issues among the Asian American community.

The report cited a lack of access to care, language challenges and lack of culturally and linguistically responsive providers.

For people grappling with mental health issues in the Asian community, it’s even more important for those barriers to come down, the report said, since many individuals and families remain in denial or silence about their situation.

Some of the report’s findings:

  • Asian American women ages 15 to 24 die from suicide at a higher rate than other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Suicide is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans overall, compared to the ninth leading cause of death for white Americans.
  • Older Asian American women have the highest suicide rate of all women over 65.
  • Among Southeast Asians, 71% meet criteria for major affective disorders such as depression.

“It is not surprising that cultural competency or multiculturalism has come under attack,” according to Sue. “Because of the lack of research on cultural competency, some have challenged it as being motivated by political correctness. Cultural competency is one of those issues that needs to be addressed immediately.”

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