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Mental illness stigma hampers help for Calif. Asian Americans

/ 01:41 AM May 13, 2016
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NEW AMERICA MEDIA

SACRAMENTO, California A new report from RAND Corporation researchers says the majority of Californians who are experiencing psychological distress, regardless of race and ethnicity, feel it is possible to recover from mental health problems. However, these findings also demonstrate that disparities in dealing with mental health still remain among population groups.

Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Californians are less likely to seek services for help with a mental health issue, perhaps due to negative attitudes and beliefs regarding mental illness, according to RAND researchers.  For example, Asian Americans were more likely than their white counterparts to feel inferior to those who have not had a mental health problem.
This study analyzes data from the California Well Being Survey, and is the first to take a comprehensive look at racial and ethnic differences in perceptions of mental health problems and stigma among a representative sample of individuals experiencing psychological distress.

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It offers insight and information that policymakers and advocates can use to improve API access and use of mental health services.

Ongoing stigma

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“California has begun investing in the kinds of programs that can move the needle when it comes to perceptions of mental illness, but more work needs to be done to address ongoing stigma in API communities,” said Vinya Sysamouth, the executive director at the Center for Lao Studies in San Francisco.

“When people with mental health challenges feel accepted rather than isolated, we can create a state of better mental health in California, and reduce the toll untreated mental health challenges have on California’s communities,” Sysamouth added.

New resources

Through the voter-approved Proposition 63, California counties produced a wide array of culturally responsive mental health resources for the API community to help break down the barriers that deter Californians from accessing help that meets their unique needs:

Fact Sheets on Mental Health Terms and Mental Health Myths and Facts have been translated for use in Lao, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Cambodian, Hmong, Khmer and Iu Mien.

The Know the Signs suicide prevention campaign, which teaches Californians to identify the signs of suicide, and take action to stop it, has culturally adapted suicide prevention outreach materials such as posters, brochures, and print, TV and radio ads, for the Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, Lao, Chinese, Cambodian and Filipino communities.

The ads break down the misconception that seeking help is a sign of weakness. The Know the Signs suicide prevention campaign has been shown to increase public awareness of suicide risk and build confidence in taking action that saves lives.

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The Each Mind Matters Great Minds Gallery hosts many videos with stories of hope and resilience that can be used in outreach to Asian and Pacific Islander communities.

The new study was sponsored by CalMHSA and conducted independently by the RAND Corporation. The report, “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Mental Illness Stigma and Discrimination Among Californians Experiencing Mental Health Challenges,” can be found at: http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1441.html

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TAGS: “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Mental Illness Stigma and Discrimination Among Californians Experiencing Mental Health Challenges, ” mental health among Californians, access to mental health services California, California Well Being Survey, CalMHSA, Center for Lao Studies in San Francisco, Each Mind Matters Great Minds Gallery, Know the Signs Suicide Prevention, mental health among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, mental health stigma, Mental Health Terms and Mental Health Myths and Facts, RAND Corporation, Vinya Sysamouth, voter-approved Proposition 63
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