Depression Help


depressed asian american | depression help | Terezia Farkas

Depressed Asian American seniors don’t want to speak out because of stigma and shame. Instead, they silently cope with depression and anxiety. Asian American women have the highest suicide rate of any racial group in America.

Why not speak out about depression?

Asian culture frowns upon mental illness. Mental illness brings stigma because it means you’re not like everyone else. It causes isolation from society. So instead of saying, “I’m depressed” an Asian will complain about the physical symptoms of depression. Headaches, loss of energy, back pains, stomach pains – things that a doctor can look at and treat as the primary focus. This means depression is often ignored, missed, or mistreated.

Admitting you need help isn’t part of Asian culture.

Admitting you need help isn’t the way to do things in Asian culture. Many Asian Americans tend to avoid mental health agencies, health services, and welfare agencies because using those services is admitting to the existence of those problems and it may result in public knowledge of those familial difficulties. Keeping their public profile healthy is important for Asians.

Asian Americans in New York City

A study by the Asian American federation found that Asian Americans in New York City found that 50% of Asian American seniors are depressed, isolated, and think about suicide.

The suicide rate for women is higher than for men, because wives tend to outlive their husbands. These women also depended upon their husbands for economic and emotional support. Sometimes their adult children can’t help them financially, so these women now live in poverty. That situation causes anxiety and depression. And if the widowed mother doesn’t live with her children, feelings of isolation enters the equation.

Why is the rate so high in NY?

New York has a high population of Asian Americans who are immigrants or refugees. The most notable refugees are the ones who survived the Khmer Rouge regime, a blood soaked period of time that saw more than 1.5 million people dead, mostly in the infamous Cambodian Killing Fields. These refugees struggled with PTSD. But instead of seeking psychological help, Asian American refugees ‘toughed it out’.

The trauma that comes from surviving wars needs to be treated. By staying silent, these Asian Americans live with past trauma. Because of how these elders were raised, staying silent about personal emotional pain is just the way you deal with that type of stuff.

Then there’s the issue of language. More than half of elderly Asian Americans speak limited English. Most of that was caused by isolating themselves into the Asian refugee community.

How to help

So how can we help the elderly Asian Americans? One way is by redefining what mental health is. By creating awareness and education about anxiety and depression, the old cultural values can be bypassed because it becomes socially acceptable to talk about anxiety and depression.

Another way is to have good cultural care. This means the mental health providers need to be aware of Asian culture, and what alternative treatments are available to treat anxiety and depression. An Asian will choose traditional Asian medicine over Western pharmicutical cures. There also needs to be an awareness and incorporation of the different activities that Asians tend to enjoy. Tai chi may connect better with an elder than say, yoga.


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