With the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes — the Stop AAPI Hate National Report covered 3,795 incidents from March 19 2020 to Feb. 28 2021, which only represent a fraction of the hate incidents against the AAPI community each year — it is more important than ever for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) folks to take care of their mental health.
"Seeking help is human; it does not mean you are weak, it does not mean you are 'crazy,'" said therapist and coach Edward Lee, LMHC. He explained that the reality is everyone needs mental health help. "There is a lot of stigma around mental health help, especially in the Asian community. Not seeking mental health help when we need it actually hurts us individually and collectively."
Lee added that humans are social beings by nature, so adding these horrific crimes on top of a global pandemic can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and loneliness — it's not normal to handle things in isolation. "You don't have to do anything alone," he said.
Licenced psychologist Sarah Kwan, MS, PhD, told POPSUGAR that racial trauma can be compounded when racial stereotypes and expectations are internalized. "For AAPI, a major stereotype is that we are 'unemotional' and lack emotional need; the message is that we 'shouldn't' need help," she explained. "To cope, emotions may be repressed, signs of suffering may be ignored, and we may find ourselves simply gritting our teeth through the pain."
Even if you feel like you don't "need" therapy, you could be holding on to trauma that you might not realise. Lee described these symptoms as: ruminating or negative thoughts; flashbacks; having feelings of melancholy, anxiety, grief, hopelessness, or fear; and exhibiting behaviours such as avoidance, hypervigilance, irritability, muscle tension, inability to concentrate, and changes in sleep.
The bottom is line is that there shouldn't be any shame in seeking the help from a professional or organisation to take care of your mental well-being. "To seek out mental health services as a means to find safety in the mind and body is the most important step in healing from trauma," Dr. Kwan said. Below, is a non-exhaustive list of therapist databases, organisations, Instagram accounts, and for other mental health resources specifically for the AAPI community, gathered in part from information from Mental Health America.
- Asian Mental Health Collective has a directory for Asian, Pacific Islander, and South Asian American (APISAA) therapists, which you can find here: APISAA Therapist Directory. The directory includes therapists from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and includes their name, credentials, website, and contact information.
- Southasiantherapists.org is a resource for people looking for South Asian therapists specifically. You can search the director for a therapist near you.
- National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association hosts a list of therapists, mental health organisations, and service providers for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) in all 50 states.
- Inclusive Therapists works to connect marginalized people with culturally responsive, identity-affirming therapists. The website includes a directory of therapists near you who offer in-person or teletherapy, and an option to get matched with a therapist.
- National Queer and Trans Therapists of Colour Network is committed to the mental health of queer and trans people of colour (QTPOC) and offers a directory of QTPOC therapists.
Advocacy and Mental Health Information
- Asian American Psychological Association (AAPA): The AAPA's mission is to "advance the mental health and well-being of Asian American communities through research, professional practice, education, and policy," according to its website. The website also includes a fact sheet, reports, and a section to sign up for the newsletter, plus resources specifically for AAPI LBGTQ+ folks.
- Asian American Health Initiative: The Asian American Health Initiative is part of the Montgomery County Department of Health & Human Services, but offer general resources for all Asian-Americans seeking help, including informative PDFs, videos, and publications on mental health and therapy.
- Asian Mental Health Collective: Asian Mental Health Collective is focussed on providing mental health care support and building a community for the Asian community worldwide. They work to raise awareness and challenge the stigma against mental illness. The website includes hotlines, a Google sheet directory of organisations, and more resources.
- National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association: The mission of the NAAPIMHA "is to promote the mental health and well being of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities" according to its website, and words to raise awareness. Some the resources include links to national Asian American Pacific Islander organisations, mental health advocacy organisations, and federal resources.
- Asians Do Therapy was started by licenced marriage and family therapist Yin J. Li, MA, LMFT. It highlights stories of Asian Americans' experience with therapy with the goal of raising awareness about good, culturally-informed therapy and help erase the stigma associated with seeking mental health help. The website also offers resources for people who are new to therapy, such as when to see a therapist.
- @asianmentalhealthproject: The Asian Mental Health Project was founded by Carrie Zhang, and provides resources to educate about mental health and encourage people to seek help. Last year, Zhang started check-in sessions on Instagram Live called Stay In, Check-In, which are a safe space for people to connect with mental health experts and share experiences. The Asian Mental Health Project notes it's not a replacement for therapy.
- @asiansformentalhealth: This instagram account is run by clinical psychologist Jenny Wang, PhD. She notes that this also isn't therapy, but the feed is filled with positive affirmations, advice, tips, and nuggets of wisdom from a professional to the AAPI community.
- @itsjiyounkim: Ji-Youn Kim is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor based out of Vancouver, Canada. She offers coaching and counseling sessions via video and phone therapy. She uses her position as a social justice advocate on her Instagram feed, informing her followers on the connection between social justice and mental health.
- @hieupham.lcsw: Hieu Pham, LCSW is a therapist based in Orange County, CA who specialises in treating anxiety, depression, and trauma. Her feed offers compelling infographics, quote graphics, and photos to inform her followers and help erase the stigma associated with mental illness and therapy.