Mental Health Experts Say Asians Less Likely To Seek, Receive Counseling
Asian-Americans are less likely than other ethnic groups to use mental health services in part because of cultural and language barriers, experts say, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Stanley Sue, a psychology professor at University of California-Davis who in January co-wrote an NIH study on immigrants' use of mental health services, said, "Regardless of age, gender or the specific Asian group they belong to, Asian-Americans tend to underutilize these services." Sue said that Asian-Americans might be less likely to use mental health services because of a belief that mental illness is caused by "organic" rather than psychological factors. "Here in the United States, we have quite articulated terms for mental health. Other cultures don't use the same terms," Sue added. A 2005 study by the Asian American Psychological Association found that by the time Asian-American university students obtain mental health services they have higher levels of distress than members of other ethnic groups, most likely because of their reluctance to seek help earlier. Of all groups, Asian-Americans spent the least amount of time in treatment, the study found. AAPA suggested that the availability of more culturally competent mental health services would address the issue. John Fong, interim director of Oakland's Asian Community Mental Health Services, said, "Things are getting better incrementally. We are seeing more clients open to counseling." On Wednesday, in the wake of Monday's mass shooting at Virginia Tech by Korean student Cho Seung-Hui, AAPA issued a statement, saying, "We believe that this incident highlights the critical value of mental health services both as a step toward prevention and in response to tragedies such as this." Experts have "warn[ed] against assigning too much importance" to Cho's ethnic background, the Chronicle reports. Alvin Alvarez, president of the Asian American Psychological Association, said that Cho's actions are not representative of his race or culture, adding, "This behavior is representative of mental illness" (Benson, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.