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COVID-19: Asian American Discrimination and Mental Health Resources

A four-step guide for Asian Americans and community allies to navigate discrimination and access community and mental health support in light of coronavirus-induced racism.

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In the past few months, the coronavirus has triggered countless hate crimes against Asian Americans. As this trend continues, there will surely be a mental health fallout to consider given the negative impact of discrimination on well-being. Racial discrimination is a significant predictor of mental health disorders among Asian Americans, and race-based traumatic stress is highly correlated to typical trauma symptoms such as dissociation, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. In-person treatment is less accessible with the virus still spreading, and the stigma around mental health in the Asian American community and language and cultural barriers suggest that technology holds the most potential for providing mental health and wellness support at this time. A plethora of online resources, services, programs, and communities exist for Asian Americans affected by the coronavirus; it’s simply a matter of knowing where to look.

Below is a four-step guide to navigating discrimination and hate and accessing community and mental health support during COVID-19.

1) Responding to and reporting hate/harassment/discrimination

Using the following platforms, Asian Americans can share coronavirus-related hate incidents and take a stand against racism. From outright hate crimes to subtle racism to a microaggression in a grocery store, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice website allows individuals to report and read stories about coronavirus-related discrimination and hate. Their incident report form is easy to submit, comes in four Asian languages, and offers additional resources for responding to hate. The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council is another organization that allows online incident reporting. Their incident report is available in 11 Asian languages and also offers specific COVID-19 resources. These websites are important for raising awareness, collecting harassment data, and most importantly, providing a safe space for individuals to report their experiences. In New York, a hotspot for the virus and its racist effects, the New York State Attorney General has launched a hotline for reporting hate crimes and discrimination. Furthermore, Asian Americans Advancing Justice offers detailed resources relating to COVID-19 racism and the James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate has compiled more general community resources for dealing with hate. 

2) Finding an online community

Aside from joining an advocacy group like the Asian American Advocacy Fund or Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the internet provides several opportunities for Asian Americans to unite and find support. For instance, Chinese Americans around the country are using WeChat to procure medical supplies for doctors and nurses. Historically, WeChat has spurred political activism among the Chinese and Chinese Americans, and even today, the app is creating opportunities for healthcare workers to obtain personal protection equipment such as masks and gowns. Another option is to actively seek out Asian American news and media sites such as AsAmNews, Hyphen, HuffPost Asian Voices, and others that embrace Asian diversity and showcase culturally relevant content. On a lighter note, those seeking positivity and supportive communities can look to online networks like subtle asian traits, a Facebook group that celebrates and connects its 1.7 million members around the world.

3) Accessing culturally adaptive mental health resources 

Accessing and experimenting with culturally responsive mental health resources is crucial given the alarming shortage of Asian American mental health professionals and lack of mental health services targeted towards Asian Americans. Gowri Aragam, M.D., co-founder of Brainstorm: The Stanford Lab for Mental Health Innovation, explains that “it is imperative to consider a person’s and/or community’s cultural experience when developing a clinical product. That cultural context directly informs the way they will perceive and engage with any potential tool that is presented to them, and will influence the ultimate success of the intervention.” Therefore, access to culturally adaptive digital mental health resources is crucial to improving minority mental health.

For Asian Americans, the Subtle Asian Mental Health Facebook group is an engaging, interactive space for individuals to share and learn from each other. The group, created by the Asian Mental Health Collective, has over 37,400 members and provides a forum for its members to raise mental health awareness, promote mental health care, and challenge the stigma around mental illness. During the coronavirus pandemic especially, Asian Americans have flocked to Subtle Asian Mental Health seeking support from one other and sharing their resources, tips, and stories. For more serious health problems, California’s Asian Americans for Community Involvement behavioral health program offers culturally and linguistically competent counseling services that help clients overcome barriers to care. In terms of general mental health care and support, NYC Well has compiled a list of coronavirus-related mental health resources, Medical News Today recommends these top 10 mental health apps, and social workers have put together this list of 60 digital mental health resources.

4) Becoming an ally

Finally, non-Asian American individuals looking to support the Asian American community have many options to become an ally, from providing financial support to supporting advocacy. Making a donation to an organization listed above such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice or purchasing goods and services from local Asian American owned businesses not only financially backs the community in a time of extreme economic distress, but also demonstrates your support against discrimination. To take a more political stand, individuals can sign anti-racism petitions like this one for Chicago or this one denouncing anti-Asian racism over the coronavirus pandemic. Join social media movements such as the #RacismIsAVirus social media campaign and the “Wash the Hate” social media awareness campaign. Understand what it means to be a bystander through this website that offers virtual bystander intervention training. Take a peek at this article for more ways to help struggling Asian American communities at this time. 

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