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Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans & Mental Health

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If you are new to CAPS and would like to speak with a counselor, please call 402-472-7450 and press 2 to schedule a same day appointment. The online scheduling portal is unavailable at this time.

Many different subgroups within AAPI label face their own unique challenges: from the trauma faced by those who survived wars in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam; Japanese Americans who remember the internment camps of the WW2 era; or the anxiety felt by the children of first-generation immigrants to reconcile their cultural heritage with American life. The struggles faced by Filipinx Americans vary from the experiences of Indian Americans (not to be confused with Native Americans). Additionally, Native Hawaiians, who are grouped into the category of AAPI as Pacific Islanders, still experience generations of historical trauma from the colonialization of the islands of Hawaii.

AAPI communities in the United States have had to struggle to reconcile their identities and challenges while recognizing the privilege that comes with the “model minority” myth. The "model minority" myth is a microaggression known as “ascription of intelligence,” where one assigns intelligence to a person of color based on their race.

Other race-based issues that impact the mental health of AAPIs include but are not limited to:

  • The Perpetual Foreigner stereotype: This occurs when someone is assumed to be foreign-born or doesn’t speak English. Some questions that perpetuate this stereotype include “Where are you from?” “Where are you really from?” and “Your English speaking is very well!” This increases feelings of isolation and loneliness by being presumed as an outsider based on your race.
  • Trauma: Collective trauma may be passed down to next and subsequent generations, particularly in conflict areas. AAPIs with a long family history in the US may have compounded trauma due to racial discrimination.
  • Stigma: Asian Americans are the least likely racial group to take actions on their mental health and are more likely to reach out to friends and family. [1] However, not all AAPIs have a strong support system and can have difficulty expressing their challenges due to guilt, shame, or even not being able to speak the same language.
  • Expectations: Criticizing appearance, comparing successes, not being _______ enough. Children of first-generation immigrants are particularly expected to serve as cultural and linguistic liaisons for older family members in addition to serving as a caregiver for younger children and attending school.
  • Religious intolerance: Religious minorities, for example Muslims and Sikhs, are often discriminated against for their appearance and beliefs, bearing the brunt of racial profiling due to Islamophobia (It’s important to note that Sikhism is not the same as Islam). There is also the assumption of criminal status where someone is presumed to be dangerous, criminal, or deviant based on their race.

Reproduced from Mental Health America: Asian American/Pacific Islander Communities and Mental Health

CAPS Can Help

At CAPS we honor the colorful tapestry of UNL that is intertwined with the multiple intersecting identities, which includes Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans. We welcome you into our space where we affirm, value and respect individuals from the AAPI culture. We are committed to helping our students navigate the development of their racial identity, address experiences of discrimination or bias, and access support and resources.

We strive to cultivate relationships with campus partners to facilitate connections and nurture a supportive campus environment. CAPS offers the following services to students:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Drop-in spaces to provide healing and connection at challenging times.
  • Consultation with our campus partners addressing injustices and bias that our AAPI students are facing.
Recognize Warning Signs How to Help Yourself Resources for AAPI Students

Did you know that CAPS can help with these?

AAPI students may find it helpful to talk with a CAPS provider to explore the intersections between their racial identities and race-related stress. Race-related stress can arise from singular or repeated instances of overt/covert racism, discrimination, or prejudice and reactions may include:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Paranoia
  • Sadness
  • Helplessness and/or hopelessness
  • Frustration
  • Resentment
  • Isolation
  • Self-blame
  • Self-doubt

Recognize When You Need Help

Often students overlook their emotional distress. Some might go as far as to say that it is too difficult for them to work on their struggles while trying to perform as a student. We encourage all students at UNL to recognize when their struggle is getting in their way and to seek academic help and support. One of the most telling differences between successful and unsuccessful students is the ability to identify warning signs of academic troubles and a willingness to ask for help.

WARNING SIGNS that you need help:
  • Decreased interest and motivation for a class or classes.
  • Sleeping through or otherwise failing to attend a class or classes.
  • Scores below class average on quizzes and assignments.
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Increased use of distractions. Internet, TV, video games, partying, or hanging out.
  • A sense of confusion or falling behind during lectures and discussions.
  • Decreased self-esteem or loss of faith in one’s ability and intellect.

How to Help Yourself

Establish a Positive AAPI Centered Identity

As you contemplate your own racial identity, as well as that of those that you encounter, finding a framework that fits you may prove beneficial.

  • Get involved.
  • Learn about identity development.
  • Find a mentor.
  • Attend events on campus which are targeted for persons of color.
  • Engage in critical dialogues.
  • Consider the ways in which your family and friends have shaped your views about being Asian.
  • Stay abreast and look critically at media images, including television, music and print.
  • Acknowledge both overt and covert racism on campus.
Manage Negative Emotions and Unproductive Behaviors

From time to time the pressures of college may become overwhelming. A loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, financial problems, balancing work/school or other stressful life circumstances can sometimes result in increased stress and/or depression. For many students, it may be difficult to acknowledge these feelings and ask for help. Often such feelings are dealt with by using alcohol or drugs, throwing one's self into schoolwork or overeating. Knowing where to get counseling services can help.

Develop Mature Interpersonal Relationships

Nurturing relationships requires that you devote time and energy to getting to know those who are new to you (e.g., roommates, hall mates, professors, advisor, etc.). It also involves maintaining existing connections with those who have supported you in the past (e.g., nuclear and extended family, friends from home, spiritual leaders, etc.).

Create a Campus Resource Network

When you tie yourself into any of the following network of individuals they will help you personalize your college experience and turn offices into individuals who are committed to your success at college.