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Healthline Mental Health

Asian American mental health stigma: Why does it exist?

Mental health stigma can negatively impact people with mental illness, their loved ones, and caregivers. Stigmas are unfair, inaccurate ideas or beliefs that people use to negatively isolate and discriminate against others with certain traits or qualities.
Mental health stigmas exist worldwide and can impact anyone of any race or ethnicity, creating barriers to access available mental health treatment. According to Mental Health America (MHA), Asian Americans are the least likely racial group in the United States to seek mental health services.
This article discusses Asian American mental health statistics, common stigmas and why they occur, cultural influencing factors that impact different groups of people, how to combat stigmas, and how to seek help.


The Asian American population is the fastest-growing ethnic or racial grouping in the U.S., increasing 72% between 2000–2015.

In 2019, over 19 million people living in the United States identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander, representing 6.1% of the total U.S. population.

Of these, roughly 15% report having a mental illness in the past year, meaning more than 2.9 million Asian Americans experienced mental illness in 2019.

Findings from the National Latino and Asian American Study also found that 17.3% of Asian Americans will be diagnosed with a psychiatric condition at some point in their lifetime.

By some estimates, Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek treatment or help than other racial groups in the U.S. The MHA also state that they are the least likely racial group in the U.S. to seek mental health services.

Why is there a stigma around mental health?

The APA claim stigma may play an important role in someone’s likelihood to access care willingly. And according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, mental health stigmas are common in Latinx and Hispanic communities in the U.S.
While more research is necessary, mental health stigmas may exist for several reasons, such the below:

Fear of disability

A study found stigmas that associate mental illness with disability are the largest barrier to Asian Americans accessing mental healthcare.

Cultural norms and values

Shaming related to mental health is a cultural norm in some Asian American communities.
Many Asian Americans also have strong family obligations that center around traditional and cultural values. Ancient Asian philosophical traditions strongly identify someone’s self-value with their ability to care for their family and community.
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