Asian-Americans meet up to discuss mental health challenges

Michelle Zhang

Mental health within the Asian-American community is currently a relatively unexplored topic because of a lack of resources and conversation, staff from the Hogg Foundation for Texas Mental Health said Tuesday.

The UT Asian/Asian American Faculty and Staff Association hosted a discussion in the SAC, featuring Tammy Heinz, program coordinator and consumer and family liaison for the foundation.

Heinz initiated the dialogue by asking audience members what they would do if someone came to them shaking with mounting anxiety.

“It’s challenging because most of our minority population are not talking about mental health as much as people in the white community,” Heinz said. “There is not even as much as opportunity for people to be doing that.”

Heinz also pointed out that the lack of conversation about mental health in Asian-American community made it difficult to identify the problem and come up with solutions.

“People often will not reach out for help because of the stigma associated with having mental health problems, and I will also say that internal stigma is huge.” Heinz said. “Personally I experienced that for years, I didn’t want anybody to know, I didn’t want to be labeled weak.”

This discussion attracted more than 30 faculty members, staff and students, and most of them were Asian or Asian-Americans.

“Because of the culture or other stuff, some of us seldom express ourselves.” Ryan Wang, a Chinese media studies graduate student, said. “I will talk to some friends that I’m close to. But if I go to some organizations or talk to counselors, I will feel a little bit weird.”

The lack of experience for some Chinese students to interact with mental health counseling services in their prior education could explain why many are unwilling to seek professional help, Wang said.

There are limited quality resources intended for this ethnic group, too, according to the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association. Only 1.5 percent of psychologists, 2 percent of social workers, 0 percent of psychiatric nurses and 0.01 percent of marriage and family therapists are Asian-Americans, Native Hawaiians or Pacific islanders, according to the association.

Reed C. Rallojay, social event chair of the AAFSA, said the conversation about mental health issues in the Asian-American community is pretty non-existent given the little amount of research and information available on this topic.

“The more opportunity we have to present the challenges regarding this topic, the awareness really helps in terms of improving the status of the topic,” Rallojay said.