New Report: Asian Americans Face Unprecedented Mental Health Concerns Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and Anti-Asian Hate
A joint report by Stop AAPI Hate, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Asian American Psychological Association finds Asian Americans who have experienced racism are more stressed by anti-Asian hate than the pandemic itself
May 27, 2021 — Today, Stop AAPI Hate, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Asian American Psychological Association released a new report on the unprecedented mental health concerns Asian Americans are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Anti-Asian Hate.
This report features the findings from three research projects that investigated the effects of anti-Asian racism on mental health among Asian Americans during the pandemic: (1) Stop AAPI Hate Follow-Up Survey (Saw et al.), (2) National Anti-Asian American Racism Study (Chuck Liu et al.), and (3) COVID-19 Adult Resilience Experiences Study (Cindy Liu & Hahm et al.) When considered together, these three projects shine a light on the impacts of racism and discrimination on the mental health of Asian Americans. While we honor the experiences of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) persons and communities, this report regretfully only focuses on Asian Americans’ experiences due to the small number of NHPI persons in the surveys.
Key findings from the Stop AAPI Hate Mental Health Report include:
- Asian Americans who have experienced racism are more stressed by anti-Asian hate than the pandemic itself (Saw et al.);
- One in five Asian Americans who have experienced racism display racial trauma, the psychological and emotional harm caused by racism (Saw et al.);
- After reporting, Asian Americans who have experienced racism have lower race-based traumatic stress (Saw et al.);
- Asian Americans who have experienced racism have heightened symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress, and physical symptoms (Chuck Liu et al.); and
- Experience of racism during COVID-19 is found to be more strongly associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms (Cindy Liu & Hahm et al.).
Before the pandemic, Asian Americans consistently displayed lower prevalence rates for serious psychological distress and lower rates of utilization of mental health treatment compared to other racial/ethnic groups.
“A couple of the most challenging obstacles Asian Americans face in seeking mental healthcare are overcoming the stigma around receiving help and having limited access to culturally competent therapists,” said Dr. Richelle Concepcion, president of the Asian American Psychological Association. “Marginalized groups within the Asian American community — including those who are undocumented, low-income, elderly and/or have a limited-English proficiency — face even greater barriers to receiving mental healthcare.”
The negative impacts of racism on mental health can be temporary and/or long-lasting — and in some cases, intergenerational.
“The long history of Asian Americans facing systemic racism and discrimination in the United States must not be forgotten,” said Dr. Cindy Liu, assistant professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and research director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Cross-Cultural Student Emotional Wellness. “It’s important to consider how the negative effects of COVID-19-related discrimination on the mental health of Asian Americans build on their previous experiences of discrimination.”
Policymakers must take action to support the mental and physical well-being of Asian Americans in the face of the pandemic and anti-AAPI hate.
“As we push to uncover new ways to improve the mental health of Asian Americans, it is key to recognize the mental health benefits of reporting a hate incident,” said Dr. Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. “The findings show that almost one-third of Asian Americans who reported racial trauma after a hate incident, no longer met the criteria for racial trauma after reporting to Stop AAPI Hate — suggesting that reporting can help Asian Americans cope with experiencing hate (Saw et al.)”
“It is important to honor and promote the ways in which Asian American communities remain resilient and support one another in collective healing and empowerment as we consider the negative mental health impacts of racism on Asian Americans and advocate for more mental health resources for our communities,” said Dr. Anne Saw, who serves on the board of directors of the Asian American Psychological Association and is an associate professor of psychology at DePaul University.
“As the Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I have long championed the need for culturally and linguistically competent mental health care and funding for our community, which is more critical now than ever. This report proves the traumatizing mental health impacts of anti-Asian racism and gives legislators a roadmap that we can use to enact needed policy changes,” said Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27)
This report is just the beginning of Stop AAPI Hate’s commitment to supporting the mental health of the AAPI community. The coalition and its partners will be releasing specific policy recommendations and mental health resources in the near future.
The Stop AAPI Hate coalition encourages any member of the AAPI community who has experienced hate during the pandemic to report the incident at: https://stopaapihate-production.mystagingwebsite.com/reportincident/.
About Stop AAPI Hate:
Stop AAPI Hate is a national coalition addressing anti-Asian racism across the U.S. The coalition was founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department. Between March 19, 2020 and March 31, 2021, Stop AAPI Hate has received 6,603 reported incidents of racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans across the U.S. Visit stopaapihate.org.