Asian American college students, a rapidly growing demographic, report higher levels of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts compared to their white peers, but are less likely to seek mental health services. In fact, they are often reported as the least likely racial or ethnic group to seek professional help and report more culturally relevant barriers to seek help for mental health problems. When they do seek help, Asian students often seek help for educational or vocational problems, rather than social or emotional problems.
Studies indicate that certain family-related cultural values could be contributing to this disparity. Asian American students report a greater fear of losing face or facing family stigma if they make the decision to seek professional help for their mental health compared to white students. This disparity is greater in students who report coming from a family who adheres more closely to traditional emotional restraint values and believes in the importance of solving one’s own problems. A history of racial discrimination could also contribute to increased resistance to seeking help.
Asian Americans have historically and currently face racial discrimination, which contributes to higher levels of anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, this discrimination has only increased in recent months due to ignorant assumptions regarding COVID-19. It is more important than ever that counseling services are equipped to meet the mental health needs of Asian students in a culturally sensitive approach that works to eliminate the negative stigma surrounding mental health. At Student Counseling Services, while we recognize there are gaps in our ability to meet every need of the Asian community, we strive to provide culturally competent care that considers the cultural background of each individual student and offer a welcoming environment to students of Asian backgrounds. We aim to operate from a place of cultural humility and are continuously seeking ways to grow our cultural understanding and ability to care for all ISU students.