API Mental Health: Let’s Stop Talking Taboos and Start Talking Racism

By: Jen Soriano (@lionswrite)

Editor’s Note: As of May 22, 2018 the author has modified this essay to include more Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) examples and statistics, thanks to a reader’s comments and resources on Pacific Islander erasure vs. visibility, disaggregation and inclusion.

I’m not (very) afraid to say it loud and clear: I am one of more than 2.2 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who live with a diagnosable mental illness in any given year, and I know I’m not alone.

2.2 million amounts to the entire population of Houston, Texas. It adds up to the entire U.S. population of Japanese-Americans and Korean-Americans combined.

I am one of 2.2 million and I know I’m not alone, especially in this political era where we breathe toxic stress-like fumes. In this trumped-up climate of racist fire and ICE, any one of us could face mental health challenges at any given moment, just as any one of us feeling well today could wake up tomorrow with a cold.

But this is not just another call for the destigmatization of mental illness in AAPI communities. Acceptance is important. But we need more. We also need a structural analysis of belonging, which is key to mental health, and how racism continually disrupts that basic need.

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