Category Prevention

Bringing Greater Awareness to AANHPI Behavioral Health

By: Larke N. Huang, Ph.D., Director, SAMHSA’s Office of Behavioral Health Equity and Victoria Chau, Ph.D., M.P.H., Public Health Analyst, SAMHSA’s Office of Behavioral Health Equity, and Office of Policy, Planning and Innovation

Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) often are the least likely of the racial and ethnic groups to seek mental health care. Research indicates that they do not seek mental health services due to risk factors like lack of insurance, not knowing where to find appropriate services, cultural norms, language barriers, and negative attitudes towards seeking help. Even as one of the fastest growing minority populations, AANHPIs are a population often overlooked in national discussions of mental health, especially the mental health of AANHPI boys and men.

In recognition of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, SAMHSA has developed two briefs on the behavioral health of AANHPI boys and young men:

With the goal to reach behavioral health equity, these issue briefs include essential information such as:

  • Ethnic-specific data and information—when available—on depression, suicide, schizophrenia, substance use and misuse and help-seeking attitudes and behaviors. Also included are social determinants of behavioral health, such as involvement in the criminal justice system and racial micro aggressions.
  • An overview of selected programs that address behavioral health disparities among AANHPI boys and young men, and effective tools and best practices for stakeholders.

AANHPIs are not only underserved but are underrepresented in mental health research.  AANHPIs remain one of the smallest populations and are unevenly dispersed across the U.S., making it difficult to get nationally representative samples in surveys and to identify trends in behavioral health service needs and service use. Additionally, they are an extremely diverse population—AANHPIs come from over 50 countries and practice over 20 major religions—and have unique histories in the United States, many of which include experiences of racism, discrimination and daily microaggressions.  Patterns of mental health service use by AANHPIs are often connected to the above factors, as well as with non-Western cultural ideas of mental disorders.

In mental health research, variability within AANHPIs is masked when data from various AANHPI ethnic groups are combined.  AANHPIs are commonly left out of research findings because they were excluded during data collection, or the sample size (i.e., number of participants) was too small making the accuracy of any findings too uncertain to report.  Additionally, when data are reported on AANHPIs, disaggregating by ethnic group (e.g., Chinese, Native Hawaiian, Samoan, etc.) is rarely done due to small sample size.  Without disaggregation of data by race and ethnicity, it is impossible to accurately understand the diverse AANHPI population, specifically regarding mental health issues and help-seeking behaviors.  These two issue briefs provide information about these AANPHI issues and provide ethnic specific data.  To learn more, please access and share the issue briefs linked above and on the SAMHSA Office of Behavioral Health Equity webpage.

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