The bill would would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to work with advocacy and health organizations serving AAPI communities to implement outreach and education strategies about behavioral and mental health.
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In an email to NBC News, Chu, who is a former clinical psychologist, said that although mental illness is treatable, cultural stigmas and linguistic barriers lead to lower rates of treatment in the AAPI community. The problem is exacerbated because of the model minority myth, she added, which gives the perception that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders don’t suffer from mental and behavioral disorders.
According to the American Psychological Association, Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services compared to whites.
“Unwillingness to talk about mental illness or seek treatment is causing needless pain. By addressing this stigma in a culturally sensitive way, we can save lives by getting more people the help and treatment they deserve,” Chu told NBC News.
Mental health issues among AAPIs vary across subgroups, but research has shown that Southeast Asian refugees, including Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans who fled war-torn countries, consistently experience high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder.