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ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 1

Asian American Women and Mental Heath Problems


Asian American omen are o!ten at the !ore!ront o! harm!"l racial stereot#$in% that
directl# a!!ects their state o! mental health& 'rom childhood to ad"lthood( these stereot#$es are
!o"nd in man# as$ects o! American c"lt"re( !rom $o$ c"lt"re to the dail# nes to literat"re ) it
can be hard to esca$e these *ies !rom +"d%mental o"tsiders& The racial stereot#$in% o! Asian
American omen can e*en %o !"ll circle ) here the# themsel*es belie*e in it and !eel the need to
,ee$ "$ ith these societal $ress"res as i! the# ere normal and e-$ected& Immi%ration( American standardi.ation(
social/based( !amil#/based and model minorit# e-$ectations lead Asian Americans to the $oint o! serio"s mental
health iss"es s"ch as de$ression( stress( and e*en s"icide&
Bein% classi!ied as an immi%rant $o$"lation $"ts a strain on American Asian omen &
0As a lar%el# immi%rant $o$"lation( Asian omen %o thro"%h economic and lan%"a%e barriers
that sto$ them !rom %ettin% health care( ma,in% them more s"sce$tible to ad*anced de$ression
Images such as this one directly influence stereotyping of Asian American women.
ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN1S MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 2
and other mental health disorders& The $resence o! strain d"e to !actors s"ch as ar( ab"se and stress !or
Asian omen is related to immi%ration and ma# also $la# a role in brin%in% abo"t de$ression&
S"icide rates are escalatin% !or !orei%n/born Asian Americans than !or American/born Asian
Americans(2 3American Ps#chiatric Association( 45667& Bein% an Asian in America ma# ma,e
one !eel li,e an o"tsider( sim$l# beca"se o! here the# are !rom or ho the# loo, com$ared to
the ma+orit#( and this can serio"sl# a!!ect their desires to e*en attem$t to recei*e treatment or
care in this co"ntr#&
The label 0American0 ta,es in man# di!!erent c"lt"res and races& Ne*ertheless( American
c"lt"re is o!ten %"ilt# o! $res"min% there is onl# one( 0American0 loo,s( *oice( and !ace&
Pro!essor o! Sociolo%#( Mina,o Ma#,o*ich( states 0the meas"re !or $h#sical characteristics is
"s"all# determined b# the dominant $eo$le(0 there!ore 0racial dis$arit# is the %reatest hindrance
to the $rocess o! inte%ration0 3897& I! Asian American omen are to $ercei*e a :one race2 as
American( here do the# !it into the s$ectr"m; This can lea*e them !eelin% con!"sed and
"nanted in America ) or ala#s tr#in% to see, an "nobtainable %oal o! loo,in% more American
than is $ossible&
Se*eral a"thors loo, at Asian American identities as described b# American c"lt"re& The
<"est to abolish stereot#$es thro"%h noticeable beha*ior corres$onds ith an Asian $ractice that
0*al"e=s> silence hi%hl# than Americans0 3Donah"e 48?7& The model minorit# m#th ser*es as a
"ni<"e c"lt"ral stressor !or Asian Americas& This m#th has $itted Asian Americans1 a%ainst other
ethnic %ro"$s o!ten ma,in% them a sca$e%oat in the social s#stem and tri*iali.in% social and
mental $roblems that Asian Americans ha*e2 3Li" @ 'ernande.( 6AA57& There ha*e been nati*es
!rom man# di!!erent nations and co"ntries hich ha*e decided to mi%rate !rom other $laces to
the Bnited States all thro"%h histor#( b"t none ha*e come in bi% n"mber than the Asians& On
ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 3
arri*in% here( man# disco*ered that it as not as !a*orable as the# tho"%ht& This is es$eciall#
tr"e !or the Asians beca"se the# ere the !irst minorities to immi%rate& To date( Asians
comm"nit# is still a !ast %roin% comm"nit# minorit# in the B&S& Asian American omen are
ma,in% noteorth# ste$s in ed"cation and other areas( b"t there has a lon% a# to %o to
com$letel# sh"t ethnic and racial ine<"alit#& Asian immi%rants to the B&S& are more inclined to be
hi%hl# ed"cated !or a n"mber o! reasons& There!ore( the# %et an entirel# di!!erent start in li!e in
the B&S& in contrast to other minorities& E*en tho"%h Asians achie*e a m"ch %reater de%ree o!
achie*ement in the B&S&( the 0model minorit#0 t#$ecastin% is a m#th beca"se Asian/Americans
still recei*e loer $a# e*en ith their hi%h <"ali!ication& Noh( 345547( states( 0the model
minorit# m#th has created incredible $ress"res to $er!orm d"e to "nrealistic e-$ectations o!
s"ccess&
Asian American omen !eel a societal $ress"re that ma# !orce them to not onl# con!ront
the di!!ic"lties s"rro"ndin% immi%ration and con!ormin% to basic American standards( b"t to be
the !ore!ront o! "$ard mobilit#& 0Societ#1s model stereot#$e o! the hi%hl# s"ccess!"l( "$ardl#
mobile indi*id"al ma,es it hard !or Asian omen to acce$t their 0shortcomin%s0 3National
Alliance on Mental Illness7& Re%ardless o! their hi%h achie*ement in ed"cation( the# ma,e
ine-$licabl# less mone# than their hite co"nter$arts& These inconsistencies are lea*in% a risin%
!raction o! o"r $o$"lation more e-$osed to $o*ert# and its re$erc"ssion& :The model minorit#
m#th( ser*es as a "ni<"e social stressor !or Asian Americas& This m#th has $itted Asian
Americans1 a%ainst other ethnic %ro"$s o!ten ma,in% them a sca$e %oat in the social s#stem and
tri*iali.in% social and mental $roblems that Asian Americans ha*e0 3Li" @ 'ernande. 6AA57&
C"st li,e an# other disorder( mental illnesses are medical state that "s"all# res"lts in a
red"ction on the ca$acit# to co$e ith the ordinar# li!e demands& 0The intense $ress"re to
ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN1S MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 4
s"cceed( co"$led ith sel! identit# $roblems( ma# ha*e ca"sed an increase in emotional t"rmoil
and hi%her s"icidal rates0 3Else et&al 455A7& It can a!!ect $ersons o! an# race( a%e or race( and
es$eciall# Asian American omen ho are o! to minorit# classes& In the recent $ast( mental
disabilit# has been lin,ed to American Asian Women& The Asian American %ro"$ is the !astest/
%roin% ethnic ith a lon%standin% moral and social $resence& Asian American omen ha*e
been to $ossess a hi%her ris, !or $ost tra"matic stress disorder d"e to social $ress"re and the
!eelin%s o! stress combined ith homeland *al"es& Asian comm"nities $lace hi%h em$hasis on
the !amil# "nit( and some Asian c"lt"res alread# *ie omen as holdin% a loer role than men&
Mental health illnesses in the !amil# are o!ten !roned "$on in Asian c"lt"re and this can ca"se
omen to not see, treatment or bottle "$ their !eelin%s& It is no onder h# the# contin"e to !ace
man# challen%es in see,in% mental health ser*ices in their res$ecti*e areas& Man# Asian American $eo$le contin"e
to !ace these challen%es( as stated earlier( d"e to !eelin%s o! non/con!ormin% to American standards d"e to
stereot#$es or realities o! bein% an immi%rant/based c"lt"re& The iss"es are o!ten lin,ed to mental illness( there!ore(
$re*ents $artic"lar iss"es !rom bein% addressed in their comm"nities&
Comedian Margaret Cho aims to end Asian American
women stereotypes by making fun of them.
ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 5
De$ression has a!!ected also the Asian/American comm"nit#& The B&S& S"r%eon Re$ort
on Mental Health( Race and Ethnicit# 345567( hi%hli%hted the stron% in!l"ence o! ethnic and
c"lt"re on the mental health o! ethnic minorities in the Bnited States& The re$ort has hi%hli%hted the
*ariet# o! emotional as ell as lo "tili.ation o! mental health ser*ices amon% Asian American !amilies& The B&S&
S"r%eon Re$ort on Mental Health( Race and Ethnicit# 345567( em$hasi.ed the stron% in!l"ence o! ethnicit# and
c"lt"re on the emotional health o! ethnic minorities in the Bnited States& The re$ort hi%hli%hted the *ariet# o!
emotional as ell as lo "tili.ation o! mental health ser*ices amon% Asian American !amilies& The B&S& S"r%eon
Re$ort on Mental Health( Race and Ethnicit#( 345567( 0a$$arentl# s"icide as seen as the !i!th/leadin% ca"se o!
death amon% Asian Americans( com$ared to an# other %ro"$& Older Asian American omen e-hibited the hi%hest
s"icide rate o! o*er a%e 8? in the B&S& The De$artment o! Health and H"man Ser*ices statesD de$ression is the
second leadin% ca"se o! death amon% Asian omen ho ha*e !led !rom ar and t"rmoil&2 As stated( in America(
one in !i*e omen !rom Asian American !amilies is dia%nosed ith mental illness that ma# lead to s"icide& A st"d#
cond"cted disco*ered that nearl# 6? $ercent o! American Asian omen ha*e considered s"icide in their li*elihoods&
"'What kind of Asian are you?' has oer ! million iews on "ou#ube. #he ideo $okes about the
one%sided stereotyping of Asian American women. Click here to iew the ideo.
ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN1S MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 6
0Asian co"ntries $lace hi%h im$ortance on the !amil# rather than the indi*id"al( and mental disabilities and
de$ression o!ten re!lect badl# in the !amil# linea%e& The e!!ects associated ith mental disabilit# o!ten $re*ents
these conditions !rom bein% dealt ith ithin Asian/American comm"nities0( 3'oo( 455E7 Hoe*er( the social
restraint in ta,in% o*er emotions that o!ten res"lts in s"icide !or American Asian omen& :Recent st"dies ha*e
con!irmed a lin, beteen s"icide and Asian American omen0 3Chen% et&al 45667&
The research shoed that Asian Americans omen ere at si%ni!icant ris, !or contractin%
$ost tra"matic stress disorder associated ith their e-$eriences e-hibited hi%h n"mbers o!
de$ressi*e s#m$toms( d"e to !actors s"ch as ar( ab"se and stress& A$$arentl# s"icide as seen
as the !i!th/leadin% ca"se o! death amon% Asian Americans( com$ared to an# other %ro"$& Older
Asian American omen e-hibited the hi%hest s"icide rate o! o*er a%e 8? in the B&S& Health and
H"man Ser*ices statesD stress is second in line( leadin% ca"se o! death in Asian comm"nit# ho
ha*e !led *iolence and t"rmoil& The social $ress"re o! the !eelin%s o! stress combined ith
homeland conditions( and loss amon% common immi%rant comm"nities has led to man# deaths
!or Asian/American omen( ho ha*e the hi%hest n"mber o! omen& 0The social e-$ectations
are that Asian omen do not ha*e that !reedom to %o o"t or do the ,inds o! thin%s most $eo$le
%ro "$ to do& 0Societ#1s model stereot#$e o! the ell/ed"cated and hi%hl# s"ccess!"l $erson can
ma,e it hard !or s"ch omen to acce$t their !las(0 3NAMI7&
In %eneral( as m"ch as Asian Americans ha*e also been classi!ied as a 0model
minorit#0and( as a hole( the# are seen as ind"strio"s( intellect"als( smart( $rod"cti*e( and
modest comm"nities ho ha*e ele*ated their comm"nit# standin% thro"%h dili%ence& This label
is %i*en in dis$arit# to other ethical stereot#$es hich habit"all# acc"se minorities as $ortra#in%
"ndesirable beha*iorF s"ch as sl"%%ishness or criminal tendenc#& The meas"re !or $h#sical
characteristics is "s"all# determined b# the dominant $eo$le& As s"ch( the %reatest hindrance to
the $rocess o! inte%ration is noticeable thro"%h $er!ormance and ser*es as a "ni<"e c"lt"ral
ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 7
stressor !or Asian Americas& This m#th has $itted Asian ma,in% them a sca$e%oat& Perha$s none
has come in more mass than the Asians( this es$eciall# tr"e !or the Asians beca"se the# ere the
!irst minorities to immi%rate& To date( Asians ha*e a lon% a# to %o to com$letel# sh"t ethnic and
racial ine<"alit#& Re%ardless o! their hi%h accom$lishment in ed"cation( the# ma,e ine-$licabl#
less mone# than their hite co"nter$arts& These inconsistencies are lea*in% a risin% !raction o!
o"r $o$"lation more e-$osed to $o*ert# and its conse<"ence& The model minorit# has $itted
Asian Americans1 a%ainst other ethnic %ro"$s o!ten ma,in% them a sca$e%oat in the social s#stem
and tri*iali.in% their social and mental $roblems&
Bntil societal norms based on man# !actors in American c"lt"re be%in to chan%e( Asian
American omen ma# still !eel str"%%les to s"stain $ro$er mental health& Beca"se o! their
immi%rant/based c"lt"re( the# o!ten str"%%le ith challen%es that American citi.en1s !ace ) and
e*en as non/immi%rants( sim$l# bein% born Asian ma# $it #o" a%ainst bein% a model minorit#
hich creates "nnecessar# stress( de$ression and lin,s to s"icide& L"c,il# in the modern era( it
can be seen in $o$ c"lt"re that Asian American omen and stereot#$in% are becomin% !roned
&ucy &iu is an Asian American actress who has played both stereotyped and non%stereotyped
roles in films and teleision shows.
ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN1S MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 8
"$on and man# actresses and comedians are ens"rin% that these iss"es are bein% addressed& In
the near !"t"re( e can onl# ho$e that Asian American omen are $ercei*ed as indi*id"als and
not harm!"l stereot#$es that either condemn them or $ress"re them to reach as %oals&
Re!erences
Da*id Cac,son( Ra#mond Smith& 3455A7& Asian American Women and Gender Iss"es& Pen%"in
Eli.a Noh( 345547& 0S"icide amon% Asian American Women0& Bni*ersit# o! Cali!ornia( Ber,ele#&
'oo& L&( C& 3455E7 Asian American WomenF Iss"es( Concerns( and Res$onsi*e H"man and
Ci*il&Bni*erse& Co$#ri%ht&
Conathan H& H& Lee( Iathleen M& Nadea"& 36AAJ7& Enc#clo$edia o! Asian American 'ol,lore and
'ol,li!e&ABC/CLIO& Co$#ri%ht&
ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN AND MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS 9
L"( 'rancis& 345547 :The $oor mental health care o! Asian Americans&2 Western Co"rnal o!
Medicine& Pen%"in
L"( 'rancis& 345547& :The $oor mental health care o! Asian Americans&2 Western Co"rnal o!
Medicine&
National Instit"te o! Mental Health&&nimh&nih&%o*& Ma# 4K( 4566&
Nicholson( B&L& 36AAJ7& :The in!l"ence o! $re/immi%ration and $ost mi%ration stressors on
mental healthF A st"d# o! So"theast Asian re!"%ees(2 Social Wor, Research& Ro"t led%e&
B&S& De$artment o! Health and H"man Ser*ices( Mental HealthF C"lt"re( Race and Ethnicit#
S"$$lement to MHF A Re$ort o! the S"r%eon General& 345567&
Bni*ersit# o! Haaii 3n&d&7&NAWHO 'actsheet on Mental Health and De$ression amon% Asians&