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Asian-Americans Less Likely To Seek Mental Health Treatment

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Compared with the overall population, few Asian-Americans seek treatment for mental health illnesses, according to a preliminary study by researchers from the University of California-Davis, the Sacramento Bee reports. The study was conducted by the school's Asian American Center on Disparities Research, which was established in 2007 with a $3.9 million NIH grant.

The study found that 28% of Asian-Americans diagnosed with psychological problems choose to receive Western-style mental health treatment, compared with 54% of the general population, and that 23% of Asian immigrants with mental health issues obtain help from a professional. Of those who do seek mental health help, many do not receive the appropriate treatment or do not complete the therapy, according to the Bee.

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Researchers said the reasons for the findings are complex. Nolan Zane, director of the center and professor of psychology, noted that in many Asian cultures, "suffering is accepted," adding, "You persevere despite your pain so you can again become a part of the social fabric." He continued, "In Eastern cultures, the goal is not about the individual person. It's to get the person back into the collective culture. The individual is less emphasized." In Western cultures, however, the "goal is to reduce a person's distress. The focus is on self-esteem, self-efficacy," he said.

Zane said, "We're trying to find out what it is about a person's culture -- about being Asian-American and being an ethnic minority -- that often leads to dropping out at a high rate from therapy compared to whites."

Judy Heary, executive director of the Asian Pacific Community Counseling, said that before the agency was established, "There was no real program set up for people to serve them in their own language and have a sense of understanding and sensitivity culturally." The 30-year-old counseling agency provides services in 13 different languages (Caina Calvan, Sacramento Bee, 9/17).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.